Foreign nationals caught without legal immigration status by the immigration authorities will be put in removal proceedings, also known as deportation proceedings. The foreign national will have an opportunity to appear before an immigration judge before being removed to his or her home country.

There are many ways for a person to be put into removal proceedings. For example, an individual might be met by ICE after committing a crime through a referral from a state police officer. Another way is after a denial on an immigration application filed by an individual with USCIS. In any case, you will have an opportunity to appear before an Immigration Judge to contest the charges against you, and to apply for a form of relief that will grant you the opportunity to stay in the United States.

Proceedings are technically commenced once any agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through their legal representative, files a “Notice to Appear”, known as NTA, with the immigration court. The NTA is the formal document listing the government charges against the foreign national and the legal basis on which the government is seeking removal of the individual. A foreign national has the right to be represented by an attorney or representative throughout this process. However, unlike in criminal cases, the foreign national does not have the right to have an attorney paid for by the state.

Alternatively, the individual can always choose to appear without legal representation. However, this is very risky because over 75% of the cases where the individual is not represented by an immigration attorney are denied whereas most people who appear with a good immigration lawyers are far more likely to be granted relief.

Types of Hearings

There are three main types of hearings before the Immigration Court: bond hearings, master calendar hearings, merits or individual hearings. Bond hearings are conducted in order to release someone from immigration custody by paying a bond. Master calendar hearings or master hearings are preliminary hearings in which the foreign national will have the opportunity to respond to the charges contained in the NTA, and to request any forms of relief he or she will be seeking to avoid deportation. On the other hand, merit/individual hearings are designed to decide the merits of the case. In individual hearings, the court will take witness testimony in support of any form of relief pending with the immigration court, cross-examine witnesses, and review all documents filed to decide the matter. Individual hearings allow the foreign national or his/her attorney to formally present all the evidence in his/her favor in seeking relief from deportation. Immigration court has its separate rules of procedure which differ from State and Federal Rules of Procedure and Evidence so it is essential that you seek legal help from an immigration attorney who specializes in removal proceedings.

The Immigration Court has exclusive jurisdiction over some types of immigration forms of relief and also shares jurisdiction over some applications with USCIS. Exclusive jurisdiction is another way of saying that a case can only be heard by the Immigration Court. Some of the most common cases that can be decided only by an immigration judge are Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents and for Non-Lawful Permanent Residents. Other forms of relief such as Asylum and Adjustment of Status may be granted by either USCIS or the Immigration Court, depending on the circumstances. This is why it is extremely important to seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney before filing any type of immigration application. You can be putting yourself at risk of removal proceedings! A perfect example is an individual who files an asylum application with the USCIS and the application gets denied. This person will be put in removal proceedings immediately. Although he or she will have an opportunity to present their case again before the Immigration Judge, their chances of success might be limited and a deportation order may be issued.

What to Expect at Immigration Court

As in other judicial facilities in the United States, you will have to present a valid identification and go through a security checkpoint. You should plan to arrive with plenty of time to be present at the exact time of your hearing. Otherwise, you risk been deported for failure to appear. You should also keep the immigration court informed of any changes of address at all times. Failure to do will put you at risk of deportation. If you do not feel comfortable speaking in English, a translator will be provided to you free of charge if you request the service in advance. You should contact your attorney or immigration court to find out more about how to schedule the translator.

Removal Proceedings are serious and complicated proceedings that should be taken seriously at all stages even from your first Master Hearing. Immigration Law is complex and you should seek an experienced removal defense attorney to represent you throughout this process. Representation by a qualified deportation defense attorney could make the difference between permission to stay in the U.S. or removal and separation from your family for many years. At Weinstock Immigration Lawyers, we have years of experience representing clients before immigration judges throughout the country, and we will put our expertise to work and provide you with the best possible representation. If you, or someone you know, are facing removal proceedings, give us a call today. We’ll determine your best strategy to stay in the country with your loved ones.