Skip to main content
Chapter 4 - Hearings Before the Immigration Judges

4.9 - Public Access

  (a) General Public 

          (1) Hearings — Hearings in removal proceedings are generally open to the public.  However, special rules apply in the following instances:

  • Evidentiary hearings involving an application for asylum or withholding of removal (“restriction on removal”), or a claim brought under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are open to the public unless the respondent expressly requests that the hearing be closed.  In cases involving these applications or claims, the immigration judge inquires whether the respondent requests such closure.
  • Hearings involving an abused noncitizen child are closed to the public.  Hearings involving an abused noncitizen spouse are closed to the public unless the abused spouse agrees that the hearing and the Record of Proceedings will be open to the public.
  • Proceedings are closed to the public if information may be considered which is subject to a protective order and was filed under seal. 

          See 8 C.F.R. §§ 1003.27, 1003.31(d), 1003.46, 1208.6, 1240.10(b), 1240.11(c)(3)(i).  Only parties, the practitioner(s) of record, employees of the Department of Justice, and persons authorized by the immigration judge may attend a closed hearing.

          (2) Immigration judges authorized to close hearings — The immigration judge may limit attendance or close a hearing to protect parties, witnesses, or the public interest, even if the hearing would normally be open to the public.  See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.27(b).

          (3) Motions to close hearing — For hearings not subject to the special rules in subsection (1), above, parties may make an oral or written motion asking that the immigration judge close the hearing.  See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.27(b).  The motion should set forth in detail the reason(s) for requesting that the hearing be closed.  If in writing, the motion should include a cover page labeled “MOTION FOR CLOSED HEARING” and comply with the deadlines and requirements for filing.  See Chapter 3 (Filing with the Immigration Court), Appendix E (Cover Pages).

          (b) News Media — Representatives of the news media may attend hearings that are open to the public.  The news media are subject to the general prohibition on electronic devices in the courtroom.  See Chapter 4.13 (Electronic Devices).  The news media are strongly encouraged to notify the Communications and Legislative Affairs Division and the court administrator before attending a hearing.  See Appendix A (Directory).