Immigration Quiz

Removal Proceedings

Q: What will I expect during my removal proceedings?

A: Perhaps you have received a letter in your mail and are unsure of the steps to take or the consequences. The letter states that the U.S. government is set to have you removed from the United States. In addition, you realize that there is a set date for appearance in court. You are not aware what is going to happen to you on the stated date. Is that the date that the U.S. government is going to have you removed from the country? Will the services of a lawyer be meaningful here? What you just need is clarification on this subject. You have to know what your rights are, the methodology applicable, and the chances of remaining in the U.S. Information is the key to alleviating your anxiety.

Removal proceedings begin when you receive a government notice to appear (NTA). The NTA is exhibited to an Immigration Judge who must choose whether to have you removed from the United States or allow you to remain. An NTA contains allegations that the government must demonstrate about you. Also, the NTA holds a charge of removability. Basically, the government is expressing that, in the event that they prove the allegations, then the Immigration Judge must reason the same way to have you removed from the U.S.

For instance, in case you are in the U.S for study reasons and you have a student visa, the NTA may claim that you do not attend classes and are subsequently removable for failing to maintain your student status. In case you are a permanent resident, the NTA may claim that you have been indicted of a criminal offense that makes you removable. While the claims that must be proven are numerous and different, the proceedings are somewhat similar – the government must prove the assertions to establish the basis for your removal. In the event that those claims cannot be proven, then the Immigration Judge ought to end removal proceedings. The NTA may state a hearing date when you need to appear in front of an Immigration Judge. In case you fail to appear on that stated date, the decision to have you removed will be passed in your absence.

That first hearing is known as a Master Calendar Hearing. This is an extremely short one before the judge that acquaints the court with your case as well as your defense. Several people are scheduled to appear in front of the judge the same time as you. An individual will be required to appear before the judge for only a few minutes. During the initial Master Hearing, the judge will request that you make responses to the allegations and charges by the NTA. However, you have the right to deny or admit the claims and charges.

You can say that you deny or admit, which is similar to saying ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ Admitting the charges will mean a lesser task on the government side to have you removed. On the other hand, if you totally deny the charges, the government has a task to prove their allegations and charges on you.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: I am going to face removal proceedings very soon. What are some of my rights?

A: The Immigrant Responsibility and Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996 did a complete overhaul on the methodology by which aliens are kept from entering the United States or totally removed. For cases beginning on or after April 1, 1997, there is a solitary removal proceeding.

A Fair Hearing

The Due Process Clause (DPC) of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to the removal proceedings. For noncitizens in removal proceedings, this solely implies that he or she has a right to a fair and reasonable hearing. The right to cross-examination and confrontation of witnesses is an essential component of a fair hearing. This is a right that is customarily restricted to relevance and proof during the removal hearing.

The Right to Confront Witnesses

As per the Immigration & Nationality Act, a noncitizen must use this opportunity to carry out a proper examination on the allegations and to face witnesses brought by the government.

Not allowed to examine any National Security Information

In spite of the fact that the noncitizen is given a sensible chance to make a complete examination against him/her, to present proof on the noncitizen's sake and to interview witnesses presented to you by the government, those rights do not entitle the alien to inspect such national security data as the U.S. government may proffer contrary to the noncitizen’s admission to the government or to a requisition by the noncitizen for discretionary relief.


An alien in a removal hearing qualifies to interrogate persons with prehearing statements that the government uses in the removal proceedings.

Competent Interpreter

All procedural due processes require that only competent interpreters be invited so that the alien can easily understand and follow the proceedings as well as exercise his or her rights to cross-examination.

Interest in Production of Statements

Any alien who is represented by a counsel, who does not demand production of testifying by the alien, may unfortunately not be entitled to those statements.


Asylum can be given to any alien who meets the qualifications of a refugee. Ideally, as an alien you have to prove the inability to go back to the country you came from. For instance, you can cite past persecution or show a well-founded fear of death or injury based on several reasons such as your religion, race, nationality, and membership in a given social or political opinion.

Several other types of relief can be available in case there is an order to have you removed. It is important that you do a proper examination of the INA totally, or seek professional advice from an experienced immigration law attorney.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: What are the grounds of removal?

A: There are several grounds of deportability, which are clearly highlighted in Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For instance, aliens qualify for removal if they:

  • Have committed certain kinds of crime, more notably aggravated felony; a crime of moral turpitude (CMT), a criminal offense committed prior to 5 years of arrival in the U.S. on reception of a green card, domestic violence; or in case the individual’s prison sentence lasted for at least a year; or 2 CMTs that are not arising out of any schemes of criminal misconducts.
  • Have failed to advise USCIS of the changes in their address within a minimum of 10 days after relocating.
  • Are found to have committed marriage fraud.
  • Assisted in smuggling of other aliens into the country.
  • Have or are drug addicts or users, or have at one point been convicted of drug-related crimes except for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana for individual use.
  • Committed any form of document fraud.
  • Have at any point in time falsely claimed to be a United States resident.

These are just but some of the grounds for which you may fall victim and face removal orders by the government. We advise that you do not rely only on this list alone in analyzing your case. Also, you may want to consult with an experienced U.S. immigration attorney. In spite of the seriousness of whatever you are being accused of, some of the grounds can be overcome by making a waiver request.

In this regard, if the offense you committed is “removable” under the laws of the U.S., specifically the INA, then you would be subject to detention and arrest alongside removal hearings in Immigration court.

The Master Calendar Hearing allows you to respond to the allegations and charges by the U.S government. Several other forms of relief include voluntary removal, adjustment of status; asylum as well as withholding of removal, which may be available for you in case you are found deportable. In case you qualify for a relief, the immigration judge will decide whether or not you merit the request for relief. Most aliens in removal hearings are released once they post a bond and may thereby stay in their residential homes with their families for as long as the case is ongoing in the Immigration Court. However, these aliens are also charged in removal hearings as aggravated felons will not qualify for a bond. This means they may end up being administratively deported or removed without the need to be referred to an immigration Court. Some offenses that seem relatively minor are nowadays being considered as aggravated felonies in regard to present immigrations law(s). Also, a noncitizen may want to seek previously unavailable forms of relief in case the offense is appropriate enough to necessitate reopening of a removal case or plead guilty to an aggravated felony.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: What are Master Calendar Hearings in removal proceedings?

A: The Master Calendar Hearing is the immigrant’s initial appearance before the immigration judge in Immigration Court. A Master Calendar is the first preliminary hearing that gives the respondent a chance to respond to charges in the Notice to Appear (NTA) done in front of an Immigration Judge. This judge gives the respondent a chance to make a request for a relief from removal, i.e., Asylum, Withholding of Removal, Relief under the CAT, stay of removal, cancellation of removal, or administrative closures where appropriate. These proceedings generally have more respondents who appear before the immigration judge. The judge’s roster for cases he/she will need to handle may have up to 10 respondents who will have to appear and respond to their respective allegations, depending on the location of the court geographically.

During each proceeding, the Immigration Judge explains everything clearly to the respondent (in respondent's native language) which is one of the respondent's rights (for instance, the respondent's right to hear and follow everything hence the necessity to have court proceedings conducted in the language of the respondent.

In case the respondent fails to attend both the first and second Master Calendar proceedings, for instance, if he requires some time to find a professional and expert attorney, he will have to ask the immigration judge for what is called “continuance with a good cause.”

In case the respondent decides to proceed with the hearing, with or without the services of an attorney, the immigration judge will want to know if the respondent denies or agrees to the charges against him/her. In case he/she disagrees to the charges, he should deny them and ask the government to prove the charges. The Immigration Judge will then determine whether or not the non-U.S. citizen qualifies for any form of relief, and is set to appear for the Individual Merits Hearing.

During all the immigration court proceedings, the noncitizen's adversary is always the Chief Counsel who always stands to act on behalf of the USCIS and the U.S. A trial attorney is one who appears against the noncitizen. Always remember that this attorney’s aim is to remove the respondent. The government must however prove that the respondent really deserves removal. Also, the respondent may be required to appear at more than one Master Calendar proceeding before the court finally schedules an Individual hearing.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: I have a case in Immigration Court and am scheduled for a hearing soon. What will happen and what should I do?

A: At times things may seemingly take a wrong turn but it is very important to stay focused and do not give up on your case because it has not yet been decided that you are going to be removed. Begin by finding an expert and professional lawyer. If the judge has already given an order to have you removed very soon, you may still have grounds for which you will file an appeal. This means the order to have you removed will be null and void and will therefore be ‘stayed’ or (held off on) while you move forward with the appeal.

In the U.S., all immigration appeals are directed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Also, you have over a month to submit the appeal, unless you decide during the hearing that you are not going to appeal, therefore waiving your rights. If you think there is no importance of appealing, then your options are luckily not over. You can request what is better known as “Voluntary Departure.” This will allow you to leave the United States when you are ready (of course with limits). This is at your own expense and so you will have avoided the order to have you removed by the government itself. This is a better option so that your immigration record is not harmed, which may make it very difficult to ever return to the U.S.

In case you have not been put in the immigration jail at the time of your proceedings, the only thing you should not do is miss your own proceedings. This will automatically result in an order of removal, and therefore a bar when you will be thinking of returning back to the U.S in the future. Additionally, whoever posted money for the bail will not get his/her money back.

Let us assume that you were available during the proceedings and the immigration judge gives an order of deportation (removal). If you are free on bail at the point when the judge ordered your removal, you will not be taken into an immigration jail. This means you will have some time to yourself as the U.S. government prepares your transportation and travel documents back to your native country.

The government will send you a letter to notify you that it is ready to have you deported. The letter is better known as “bag and baggage” letter using the address you left during the hearing. The letter will have instructions on where and when to report for your trip back home and the luggage that you can carry with you.

In case you missed the letter from the government because you moved, or if you decided to ignore the letter, you automatically qualify as being a fugitive and, therefore, can be arrested. It is important to be ready at any time if you have been issued with a deportation order. The government may revoke its order to have you deported if you are too sick to travel or you may have discovered new legal grounds for staying in the country. If this occurs, request for an application for postponing your removal.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: If I apply for Voluntary Departure, how long will I have before I need to pack and leave the United States?

A: An immigration judge who grants requests for voluntary departure (VR) is most likely to allow you up to 4 months before you must pack and leave. However, the exact period for which you will be allowed to prepare for your VR will depend on the point in the hearings at which you make the request.

In case you request for a VR either before the first hearing (which will probably necessitate finding a lawyer to help you) or after the hearings have started – namely at the first scheduled proceeding, better known as a “Master Calendar Hearing” – the immigration judge may decide to allow you to stay for another 120 days. In this particular case, it will be important for you to concede deportation, in other words admit that you have no right to continue staying in the U.S., file an asylum relief request for deportation (not separately claiming remedy such as cancellation of removal or asylum), give up (waive) any opportunity to file an appeal and therefore escape having aggravated felonies appearing on your immigration record.

In the event that you wait close to the end of your deportation hearings when the immigration judge had already given judgment in your case – which you would rather do if you had some kind of immigration case for presentation, based on perhaps marriage to a U.S. citizen or asylum – the immigration judge will grant you not more than 60 days for a Voluntary Departure.

In the latter case, you would need to have been present in the United States for no less than one year prior to receiving the "Notice to Appear" in an Immigration Court (the "NTA"), to have exhibited great moral character for five years prior to requesting your Voluntary Departure (any unlawful acts on your record will look bad in this particular case), have committed no aggravated felony crimes, and have the capacity to appear, by clear and persuading evidence, that you not only want to leave the United States by the set date, but can comfortably manage your expenses when doing so. To serve as evidence of your capability to do so, you will be required to show your financial intentions and means as well as post a bond within a timeframe of 5 days after being granted a VR. After acceptance of your Voluntary Departure, you will be required to leave the U.S. within the stated time period. Failure to do so will result in many negative consequences, including being unable to return to the U.S. in the future.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: I know that I am in the United States illegally and I am concerned that someone may report my illegal status to the U.S. government. What would take place if that does occur?

A: You always stand at a risk of being deported or removed from the country if you are here illegally. If you are reported by someone, it is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers who may come to question you. Then again, nothing will happen automatically or immediately. First and foremost, there is the inquiry of whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will follow up on these tips or not. They actually do not have the resources to check up on each and every tip.

Or, the ICE may investigate and decide to exercise what is better known as "Prosecutorial Discretion." This implies that they first inspect your situation — your history in terms of responsible work, your family life for the period you have lived in the U.S., and your ties to U.S. nationals (in particular your children) – and hopefully rule out any removal proceedings being placed against you.

The thought here is that they should direct government assets/resources at individuals who have perpetrated criminal acts or have otherwise committed various undesirable acts. Regardless of the possibility that they could have officially scheduled these court proceedings, they can possibly rule them out on the grounds of Prosecutorial Discretion. In case ICE has determined to have you removed, you could be arrested. It is still a good idea to seek counsel from a trusted immigration officer prior to your hearing. Lining up an attorney in this case will help solve some of the unknowns for you, such as your rights as well as what is expected of you at any particular point in time.

After being arrested, there is a likelihood that you will be charged with removal, released on bond, where you will be required to face an immigration judge. An NTA will carry the specifications for your removal proceedings. If you really think you have any defenses against your removal, you can request for a Merits Hearing (full court hearing).

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: What value will an immigration attorney be in my removal proceedings? How can he/she help present my defense?

A: A lawyer will, before the removal proceedings, spend some time uncovering whether the DHS charges against you are in any way correct, and whether any specific circumstances throughout your life would at all warrant defending your removal. Due to the nature of complexities in regard to immigration laws, these potential outcomes may not be evident in your case. The attorney might, for instance:

  • Argue that the charges and allegations against you are false (for instance, that the act you submitted does not at all match any of the grounds for removability found in the U.S. immigration laws).
  • Show that you are really a U.S. national because, for instance, your grandparent or parent is a U.S. citizen.
  • Argue that you are eligible for asylum, due to the fact that you have either encountered or reasonably fear confronting oppression if you were made to return back to your native country.
  • Ask the immigration judge for a green card due to the fact that you are a “preference relative” possessing a current priority date and even a visa number. Also, you may cite that you are an immediate relative of a United States citizen or,
  • Ask the judge to help you introduce a provision for cancellation of deportation, which in essence makes a green card easily accessible to noncitizens of great moral character and have spent a part of their lifetime in the U.S.
  • You may still ask for an exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion, contending that as a result of your great character and family ties, the DHS ought to – regardless of the possibility that you have no right to access a green card – end your case and refocus on individuals who exhibit a real danger to U.S. society.

Regardless of the fact that you might be eligible for these requirements, applications, or provisions, a lawyer can assist you to make the strongest arguments possible. The lawyer will fill out any forms required, help in the preparation of exhibits (records that back your statements), draft lawful briefs contending the case, and help you and any witnesses prepare for the court proceedings. Regardless of the fact that the judge may deny your case, having robust information on the record will make your chance for an appeal even stronger. In any case, this is your only unrivaled opportunity to completely present your testimony, statements, and lawful contentions. Appeals do not provide you with a chance of an entirely new look on your case – they simply concentrate on whether or not the judge settled on a reasonably correct decision based on the presented information.

Immigrants are not allowed to be represented by lawyers from the United States government. However, there are ways to use an attorney during your initial removal proceedings. This means, immigrants will have to hire and pay the fees for an attorney. You may also seek low cost services from charitable organizations that assist refugees and immigrants.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: I did not attend my hearing on the day it was scheduled. What will happen once ICE officers find and arrest me? Will I be deported immediately?

A: Whenever an immigrant misses a scheduled hearing, the immigration judge makes a ruling to have you removed. You are therefore ordered deported in absencia. This means the immigration judge gave a ruling/order to have you deported to your country of origin in your absence. Missing out on the ruling meant you did not have any evidence to prove the government wrong in its charge to have you removed. Failing to attend any scheduled proceeding calls for an immediate order to have you arrested and deported, as long as the U.S government has proof that you received a notice. So, if you received the notice to attend your removal proceeding and failed to, you should be prepared for an arrest without notice.

If you are found by ICE, the agency may use that deportation order to have you put in custody and deported out of the U.S. without any further hearing. By failing to present your testimony during the scheduled hearing, you simply gave up your fight and right to have the deportation case nullified. This is the reason why you must attend the hearing even if you really think you will not be able to win the case. Failing to show up because you were ill is never an excuse if you did not notify the court in advance.

In case you are facing a Removal Order in absentia, ICE could be planning to come arrest you. Your case could be of high priority, for example if there is a history of immigration violations and previous criminal convictions. If it is a low priority case, ICE may never actively find you but in some way, you could soon come into their custody. For instance, there may raid at your workplace or you may be taken into custody by a different law enforcement institution, like the state or local police, after committing a minor criminal offence such as a traffic violation.

Once ICE detains you, one of your rights is contacting a family member, employer, lawyer, or friend. There are still ways in which you can prevent the removal even after being declared removable in absentia. You could file a Motion to Reopen your case. Here, you will need to say that you never received any notice of your proceeding or have exceptional circumstances, like a very serious illness that prevented you from being present.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Q: Am I at risk of removal proceedings?

A: There are currently over 11 million undocumented people residing in the U.S. and just a small fraction of this population is presently the subject of deportation proceedings. One of the frequently asked questions is: how does one get unfortunate enough to end up on the radar of immigration institutions and put in an immigration cell awaiting removal proceedings?

First, the majority of the people living in the U.S. without proper immigration statuses always try to sidestep detection, and fight to stay clear of criminal incidents. If you live in the U.S. and even work but you do not have proper supportive immigration documents, and are generally complying with our country's laws, it will simply be bad luck if you end up in removal proceedings. Immigration institutions in the U.S. generally are not moving from place to place trying to find individuals who they think are in the U.S. by mistake and asking them to show their papers. In view of encounters with clients who seek services of an attorney, listed below are the most well-known scenarios prompting initiation of removable hearings against people residing in the U.S. without acceptable migration statuses:

Traffic stop: Depending on the kind of jurisdiction, local cops may delightfully reach out to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a traffic stop. Mind you, numerous municipalities across the country have particular rules and regulations against their local police reaching ICE. However, most of them do not have such regulations. The chances that a traffic stop may hand you over to the ICE expands exponentially if the officer has reason to believe the vehicle driver is under the influence of a drug or alcohol, or has exceptional warrants for other criminal offenses.

Criminal Arrest: If an individual is arrested on criminal grounds, be it a crime or felony, and whether substantiated or not, there is a better chance that the arresting police officer will want to contact ICE in the event that he realizes the individual is in the U.S. without proper immigration status.

Denied Applications for Permanent Residence: If a person seeks perpetual residence, say focused around a marriage to a U.S. native, and for reasons unknown the marriage dissolves, or migration institutions suspect the marriage was a sham, it is not unusual for denied applicants to get a "Notice to Appear" via the mail requiring them to show up in court for the initiation of removal hearings.

Rejected Asylum Applications: If for whatever reasons a requisition for asylum is denied at the first Asylum Office level and the immigrant is no longer in a valid immigration status, the Asylum Office may send you a "Notice to Appear," instructions to show up in court. The uplifting side is that the person will have another opportunity to present the statements for an exhaustive re-examination by an Immigration Judge.

Reported to the ICE by a private individual: Usually, ICE gets a huge number of requests from private individuals looking to have undocumented individuals removed from the U.S. Given evident limitations in their prosecutorial and investigative capabilities, ICE can only follow up on few of such grievances, and generally if there is confirmation that the reported person is also participating in a criminal activity.

Entering the U.S. Through International Borders: Undocumented people riding in a car, truck, or train close to the Canada/U.S. or Mexico/U.S. border have progressively been turned into the subject of stops by immigration authorities, particularly agents from the Customs and Border Protection (an ICE affiliated agency under the Department of Homeland Security umbrella). This is especially true for train riders and truck riders in the Northwest and West and truck drivers in the South and Central Texas region.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.

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Client Reviews
Great immigration lawyer, very professional, knowledgeable and experienced. Jacob always answered my questions, e-mails and calls; great customer service from him and everybody at his office. I highly recommend Jacob, probably the best immigration lawyer out there. Plinio Franca
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