November 12, 2020

Immigrant rights organizations, attorneys file complaint against local Immigration Judge
Immigration Judge Nicholas Ford is terrorizing the San Francisco immigrant community.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA — On November 12, 2020 a coalition of legal service providers, community members, the San Francisco Public Defender, and the National Lawyers Guild – San Francisco Bay Area filed a complaint today with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) against San Francisco-based Immigration Judge Nicholas Ford for his racist, ableist and hostile treatment of immigrants, attorneys and witnesses.

The EOIR complaint alleges Ford:

  • Demonstrates unlawful and inappropriate manifestations of bias in the courtroom.
  • Treats immigrants, witnesses, and practitioners in an unprofessional and hostile manner.
  • Disregards basic legal rules, causing undue prejudice and wasting public resources. 

“Appearing in IJ Ford’s courtroom was a reminder that immigration courts are arenas ripe for traumatization and dehumanization, especially in the context of xenophobic administrations. IJ Ford felt empowered to shout at and accuse my client throughout the hearing, showing little regard for the fact that she was a human being in his courtroom,” said Omar de la Cruz, immigration attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza. 

The coalition argues that Judge Ford’s appointment is part of the Trump administration’s deliberate policy to discourage and curtail immigration from every angle, particularly against black and brown immigrants. “Judge Ford’s dehumanizing treatment of those who appear in his courtroom is unacceptable,” said Lisa Knox, Legal Director for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. “His demonstrated bias undermines due process for asylum seekers and immigrants of color.” It is imperative that President-elect Biden swiftly direct the Department of Justice to reign in or remove hostile adjudicators like IJ Ford from the courts and ensure due process for immigrants. 

Numerous legal providers and community members have expressed strong concerns about Ford’s racist history influencing his work in San Francisco. He is especially unsuited to hear cases involving survivors of torture applying for asylum and other forms of immigration relief. During his time as an Immigration Judge, Ford has consistently terrorized community members through his hostile and unprofessional treatment of those in his courtroom. “It is painfully apparent how much the clients we serve have overcome throughout their lives,” says Roxana Moussavian, immigration attorney at Pangea Legal Services. “To then have to stand by as a judge, a member of the same government these clients are seeking protection from, belittles and demonizes their every word, treats them as though they have no dignity, and fails to acknowledge their humanity, it’s too much.” While unfair and antagonistic judges are nothing new to immigrants, Ford’s misconduct is part of a larger, documented effort by the Trump administration to politicize immigration courts and encourage biased decisions. 

Despite having no immigration law experience, Ford was appointed as a San Francisco Immigration Judge by Attorney General William Barr in 2019 after retiring from his judgeship in Cook County, Illinois. While in Cook County, Ford was accused of complicity in a Chicago police torture scandal that targeted Black people and used torture to coerce criminal confessions for over two decades.  

The coalition has urged EOIR to thoroughly investigate IJ Ford’s conduct and take appropriate action to ensure that individuals who appear in the San Francisco Immigration Court are treated with due process, dignity, and respect. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to sign on to a public letter ( or making the same request of EOIR and the DOJ. 

Additionally, the coalition is calling on the community to help hold San Francisco Immigration Court accountable. A collaborative court watch program run by NLG-SFBA, Freedom for Immigrants, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, and other coalition organizations trains community members to attend and observe immigration hearings and to document what happens, including any failures of due process. Individuals can sign up for a court watch training at


National Lawyers Guild – San Francisco Bay Area
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Freedom for Immigrants
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
Kehilla Community Synagogue
Immigrant Legal Defense
Innovation Law Lab
Centro Legal de la Raza
Pangea Legal Services
California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ)
Bay Area Asylum Support Coalition (BAASC)
La Raza Centro Legal
Dolores Street Community Services, Deportation Defense and Legal Advocacy Project 
Democratic Socialists of America San Francisco Chapter
San Francisco Rapid Response Network 
Collective Action For Laborers, Migrants & Asylum Seekers (CALMA)
San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN)