By Jacqueline Stevens
You don't need to go to Iran or North Korea to find secret courts. They're alive and well right here in the United States. On March 26, 2009, I was denied access to immigration courts in Eloy and Florence, Arizona, even though a federal regulation states, "All hearings, other than exclusion hearings, shall be open to the public" with a narrow range of exceptions--none of which were cited as a reason for excluding me.
I'd heard horror stories about mass hearings and the humiliation of detainees by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys and judges, and I wanted to see for myself. But a guard told me only family members or attorneys could be admitted. An attorney in the lobby affirmed the legality of my request and invited me to attend his hearing. After waiting forty-five minutes and missing his hearing, I was told by the head of security to go to my car and call Eloy's ICE office. That's when I learned that detention centers across the country were restricting public access to immigration courts.