New Tools to Push Back on Conveyor Belt “Form Addenda” Misuse and Protect Due Process

Due process is an essential cornerstone of our legal system to ensure all people are treated fairly and respectfully in court. Honoring due process rights means upholding transparent legal procedures that ensure people are heard and that their unique, individual cases are judged on their own merits. These concerns are particularly crucial for people in immigration court proceedings, which one former immigration judge described as “death penalty cases in a traffic court setting” because of the high stakes outcomes for noncitizens in a system that frequently rushes to adjudicate cases as quickly and summarily as possible.

However, immigration attorneys nationwide have been witnessing a troubling trend. Some immigration judges are issuing deportation decisions without actually analyzing the specific facts of a person’s case. Instead, these conveyor belt decisions simply rely on boilerplate summaries of immigration law known as “form addenda,” attached to the person’s decision.

This means that an immigrant neighbor who has built their home and life in the United States could be deported and ripped away from their family and friends without the judge even analyzing their specific situation or explaining their decision. The person may be deported to a country where they are at risk of being tortured, persecuted, or killed. These drastic consequences are possible without the immigration judge providing an explanation. Instead, immigration judges sometimes just staple a deportation order to an individual’s case without reviewing it first.

“The law requires U.S. immigration judges to conduct an individualized analysis of each person’s case when deciding whether to deport them,” said Peter Alfredson, Senior Attorney at Amica Center for Immigrant Rights (formerly known as CAIR Coalition). “When the stakes are that high, immigrants deserve to know that judges are taking their claims seriously and issuing decisions that reflect that responsibility.”

This week, in response to these concerning practices, Amica Center, with support from pro bono counsel O’Melveny & Myers, shared new resources for immigration attorneys and advocates on dealing with form addenda. These resources include a practice advisory, which offers practical suggestions for practitioners on navigating common situations involving form addenda. In addition, Amica Center is providing practitioners with sample briefing outlining several form addenda-related arguments under Third and Fourth Circuit law, which they can include in appeal briefs with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Previously, Amica Center, along with over 50 partner organizations, with support from O’Melveny & Myers, submitted an advocacy letter to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), arguing that the agency must reform its policies governing the use of form addenda. The letter urged EOIR to increase training for immigration judges on proper addenda usage, make form addenda publicly accessible, and appoint an ombudsman to investigate addenda misuse.

“While EOIR has subsequently communicated its commitment to improving its practices around addenda misuse, we know that problems with addenda continue on the ground,” said Peter Alfredson, Senior Attorney at Amica Center. “As a result, we hope that this practice advisory and sample briefing empower practitioners to address any addenda-related issues and advocate effectively on behalf of their clients.

Amica Center will continue fighting for clearer policies from EOIR, so when judges use form addenda, they do so in a way that is fair and respectful to the people whose lives are in their hands. We will continue to work towards a more humane and just immigration system that affords everyone due process, protects all people seeking safety, and keeps communities together.

Practice Advisory

Model Briefing on Form Addenda (Third Circuit law)

Model Briefing on Form Addenda (Fourth Circuit law)