Document Type



In this article, I examine the growing use of videoconferencing technology in immigration proceedings. These hearings raise a number of concerns that have not yet been fully explored, particularly in light of a growing body of scientific evidence that video-mediated personal interactions are perceived significantly differently by the participants and observers than in-person interactions. Recent behavioral and psychological studies have found that key differences between the two forms of communication, such as the lack of eye contact and the difficulty of detecting non-verbal cues, have profound impacts on the cognitive and emotional response of the listener, as well as on the perception of the speaker's credibility and guilt.

Personal testimony is particularly important in the immigration removal context, in which respondents often lack the resources to provide evidence and witnesses. These proceedings may violate a number of important rights that are fundamental to our conception of justice: the right to be present in court when a matter of great importance to your future is under consideration, the right to personally confront the witnesses and evidence against you, and the right to effective representation by an attorney.

In this article, I first explain the growing use of this technology in American courts, including immigration proceedings. Next, I will examine the problems raised by this new technology in the courtroom, specifically with regard to its impact on communication between the respondent and the judge. In the third part, I will show how these problems violate the fundamental rights of the detainee -- to presence, confrontation, and counsel. Finally, I will conclude with some ideas on how to mitigate these problems while still taking advantage of new technology, and some examples of good uses of videoconferencing technology.

Date of Authorship for this Version

December 2006