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Advocates Archive: The Immigration Court Observation Project (2017)

April 3, 2023

The Immigration Court Observation Project began in 2017 as an effort to harness some of the energy and public outcry that had erupted in response to the Muslim Ban enacted by the Trump Administration. The goal was to direct this energy and focus it towards creating a more just and fair immigration system.

The project draws on the international human rights practice of trial monitoring to identify, bring visibility to, and end systemic human rights violations that can often occur in civil immigration enforcement. The project brings volunteer observers from the public into the Fort Snelling Immigration Court in Minnesota to observe and document immigration hearings of people who are currently held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. This allows observers to document emerging trends and problems in court.

In 2020, The Advocates released Bearing Witness in the Moment: Report from the Immigration Court Observation Project, which explores how immigration court observers have been affected by participation in the project and how inviting the public inside the workings of the deportation infrastructure can call into question the workings of that system. This report illuminates court observers' motivations, experiences, perceptions, and recommendations.

You can learn more about the project, and how to become an observer yourself, by clicking here.

The Advocates is celebrating 40 years of defending human rights. Throughout this year we are sharing stories and projects from our archives to shed light on the history of the organization, and the issues we work on.