“Opportunity to be Heard”
An individual has officially been placed in the process of deportation or “removal proceedings” when a charging document called a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) has been filed with the Immigration Court. This means that the person will be given the opportunity to be heard by an Immigration Judge. The individual has the right to be represented by an attorney, at his/her own expense, during the removal proceedings.
Master Hearing: At the initial hearing, if the person is not represented by counsel, most judges (not a guaranty!) will give the individual (called the “Respondent”) the opportunity to obtain counsel. If the judge is kind enough to give you more time, do not take it for granted! If you intend to retain counsel, do so as soon as possible, regardless of whether you think you have relief available to you or not. An attorney can investigate your options.
“FOIA” Request: We highly recommend that a person in removal proceedings make what is called a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. This is a request to the government for a copy of your records (which you can assume the government attorney at your proceedings will have). It is very important to know and understand one’s government record, especially if you are trying to stay in the country and the government wants you out! We can file one of these for you and ensure a quick response.
Individual Calendar Hearing: At this hearing, you or your attorney will request the specific relief you are seeking. There are many different forms of relief available to an individual, depending on the person’s background and circumstances. Some types of relief may include: asylum, adjustment of status, domestic violence defense, cancellation of removal, voluntary departure and so forth. What you are eligible for depends mainly on your history here in the United States.
Reinstatement of Prior Order:
A person may not have the opportunity to appear before an immigration judge and present a defense to removal IF the person has been previously ordered removed and the Department of Homeland Security files something called “Reinstatement of Removal.” In this case, family members would be wise to immediately contact an immigration attorney to see what may be done for the individual.