The letter in the mail look ominous. You may not understand everything it says but you know it is not good. You know what it means- the U.S. government is seeking your removal from the United States. What’s more is that there is a date for you to appear somewhere. You don’t know what happens on the date. Is that the day that the government will deport you? Do you get to talk to a judge? Do you need a lawyer? What you need is an explanation. You need to understand your rights, the process, and the chances you have to remain in the U.S. Information is the key to easing your anxiety. Benach Collopy is committed to taking as much anxiety out of removal proceedings as possible and to educating clients so that they know what to expect.
Removal proceedings are begun when the government issues a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA is presented to an Immigration Judge who must decide whether to order you removed from the United States or allow you to remain. An NTA is a list of allegations that the government must prove about you. In addition, the NTA contains a charge of removability. Essentially, the government is stating that, if they can prove the following allegations, then an immigration judge must conclude that you are removable from the U.S. For example, if you are here on a student visa, an NTA may allege that you failed to attend school and are therefore removable for failing to maintain your student status. Or, if you are a permanent resident, the NTA may allege that you have been convicted of a crime which makes you removable. While the allegations that must be proven are distinct, the proceedings are pretty similar- the government must prove its allegations to establish that you are removable. If those allegations can not be proven, then the Immigration Judge should terminate removal proceedings.
The NTA may contain a hearing date when you have to appear in front of an immigration judge. If you do not show up on that date, you will be ordered removed in your absence. That initial hearing is called a master calendar hearing. A master calendar hearing is a very brief hearing in front of the judge that introduces the court to your case and your defense. Many people are scheduled at the same time and an individual will only be in front of the judge for a few minutes. At the first master hearing, the judge will ask you to reply to the allegations and charges on the NTA. You have the right to admit or deny the allegations and charges. Just like on TV or Law and Order. You can say that you admit or deny, which is like saying “guilty” or “not guilty.” How often does anyone on Law and Order say “guilty” at the first hearing? Almost never! Yet, immigrants and their attorneys do it every day. When the government must prove the allegations and charges, you only make it easier for the government to remove you if you admit the allegations and charges. If you deny the allegations, the government must produce evidence to prove their charges.
If the government has the evidence to prove the charges or the immigrant (called “respondent”) admits the charges, removability will be established and the Judge can order the respondent removed. Yet, the respondent is able to apply for relief from removal. Just because someone is removable does not mean that they must be removed. Many people are eligible for relief from removal. In other words, they get the chance to convince the judge that there are good reasons why they should be allowed to stay in the U.S.
At the master hearing, the Judge may schedule another hearing to give the government a chance to prove its allegations and charges or, if the government proves it, will schedule a hearing to hear the respondent’s application for relief from removal. That type of hearing is called an individual or merits hearing. Before the individual hearing, the government and the respondent must submit evidence and arguments to the judge. For the respondent, the evidence may be an application for relief. The government may introduce evidence of convictions or other conduct. The individual hearing lasts much longer than the master calendar hearing and is for the judge to consider all the evidence, arguments and to hear testimony from the respondent or other witnesses. Generally, at the end of the hearing, the Judge will issue a decision and give her reasons for either granting relief from removal or ordering removal.
Both the government and the respondent have the opportunity to appeal the judge’s decision. If the judge has ordered removal, an appeal provides an automatic stay on the order of removal, meaning that the government can not remove an individual while the appeal is pending at the Board of Immigration Appeals. An appeal must be filed within thirty days of the judge’s decision.
Benach Collopy attorneys will take the time to explain this process to you and to advise you of your rights. We will understand your priorities and concerns. We will map out a comprehensive strategy to help you achieve your goals. Then, we will execute the tactics to implement our strategy and achieve your goals. Removal proceedings create anxiety. We cannot eliminate all of it, but we can take away the mystery, set your expectations and give you the best chance to succeed.