Immigration Court Observers

People detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) face barriers to basic human rights. While people detained by ICE have the right to legal counsel, they do not have the right to a government-appointed attorney. Many people, regardless of age or capability, have to represent themselves in immigration court. Detention undermines the ability to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution, to remain with family, and to a fair day in court. Although immigration court hearings are open to the public, few people witness these proceedings.

The Human Rights Defender Immigration Court Observation Project helps bring transparency and accountability to this system. Court observers attend hearings and report on issues of concern including access to counsel, family and community support, and language interpretation; the manner of arrest; and the ability of individuals to raise defenses to deportation.

This is an in-person volunteer experience at the Fort Snelling Immigration Court, in Minnesota. This project is open to all, no immigration experience or law license is needed. Volunteers must watch an introductory video, complete the Volunteer Agreement linked below, and attend a training for new observers.  After completing the Volunteer Agreement, you will receive email notification about upcoming training dates. Following the training, new observers will be matched with a mentor for their first shift. Ongoing volunteer training, networking and support are available.

Court observers must have valid government-issued photo identification to enter the Whipple Federal Building which houses the immigration court; a REAL ID or passport will be required as of May 3, 2023.

Step 1: Click here to watch the orientation video.

Step 2: Complete the Volunteer Agreement below.  Once you complete the Volunteer Agreement you will be contacted about the next orientation.  

If you have already completed the Volunteer Agreement, and attended the required volunteer training, click here to sign up for shifts. 


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This is an in-person volunteer opportunity at the Fort Snelling MN Immigration Court.
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