I had a fabulous but all too rare experience with an ICE trial attorney in immigration court last week.
The case was a hard fought asylum claim by a Middle Eastern woman who is afraid to go home. I called a country conditions expert as our first witness. After I qualified her the TA asked to voir dire her to test the expert’s qualifications. For the next 45 minutes the TA interrogated the expert. But, while the examination was thorough and skeptical, it was fair. There was no hint of disrespect either in form or substance.
Once the judge admitted the expert, I proceeded with my direct-examination. Happily, I didn’t have to waste energy countering pointless objections merely designed to prevent the expert from expressing her opinion. The TA attempted neither to obfuscate nor block the testimony. Instead, she listened carefully to what the expert said, all the while taking copious notes.
But don’t get the impression the TA rolled over. To the contrary, her cross examination was tough and effective, forcing the expert to explain contradictions between her testimony and other evidence in the record.
It became clear to me as the day wore on that the TA was making a good faith effort to figure out, in the interests of justice, whether my client qualified for asylum. When the hearing recessed, I thanked the TA for her professionalism, and told her what a pleasure it was to try a case with her.
Her mission, she told me, was to do the right thing, not simply to defeat the asylum claim. If the woman deserved protection in the US, so she continued, then she should be granted asylum.
Incredible! Would that all ICE trial attorneys shared her mission. Our broken immigration system would be that much more functional.