Despite the fact that many regions within Puerto Rico remain without power post-hurricane, the devastated island still continues to run a live video stream between an immigration court in Guaynabo, and the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey due to a significant backlog in the U.S. Immigration system. Indeed, for many immigration detainees, they will “meet” their adjudicating Judge who will decide their fate via video hookup on a television monitor.
When interviewed about the situation, Immigration Attorney Edward Shulman of Elmwood Park, New Jersey stated that “Although remote Video-teleconferencing (VTC) increases judicial productivity and may certainly make an appreciable dent in the large and growing back-log, there are several concerns about this modality of adjudication, relating to administrative issues, validity questions, and technological problems. From a pure organizational standpoint, the paper case files will have to be shipped to Puerto Rico in advance of certain hearings which will surely result in a host of challenges, including but not limited to mailing delays and the need to re-schedule hearings, adding to an already burdened docket. From a validity standpoint, there are concerns about depersonalization and whether the Immigration Judge is able to maximally interpret facial expressions, behavioral demeanor, nuances in tone, and psychological presentation from a screen which can significantly impact interpretation of whether a respondent is credible or not. From a logistical standpoint, there can be technological challenges due to pixilation problems, audio delays, inadequate sound, lack of an adequate picture, which reduce the efficacy with which the client can effectively argue his or her case.”
Although in the ideal world, all clients would have the benefit of an in-person hearing, administrative logistics and governmental back-logs dictate otherwise. That is why it is critical to find a seasoned, rated, and well-reputed Immigration attorney who will not only be able to prepare clients for the possibility of a hearing via VTC but also to ensure that the VTC process provides their client an appropriate and valid experience. In some cases, it will be important for the Immigration Lawyer to make a professional judgment call in asking the Judge to adjourn or reschedule the hearing due to technological difficulties which may have reduced the effectiveness of the court experience for his or her client.