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 Project Court Observers help 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 interpretation; the manner of arrest; and the ability of individuals to raise defenses to deportation.
No immigration experience or law license is needed. This community service opportunity is open to all. Court observers must have valid government-issued photo identification to enter the immigration court.
This project currently is open to observers at the Fort Snelling Immigration Court only.
Step 1: Watch the orientation video describing the Court Observation project.
Step 2: Sign up to observe hearings. You will receive more detailed instructions and observation forms upon registering.
Step 3: Attend scheduled shift, note observations, and return completed form as directed.
This project is a collaboration of The Advocates for Human Rights, the University of Minnesota Law School James H. Binger Center for New Americans and Robins Kaplan LLP.
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The Advocates for Human Rights
330 Second Avenue South, Suite 800
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Immigrant Client Line: 612-341-9845
Media Inquiries: 612-746-4669 or Email