What to Expect at a Removal Hearing

If you’ve received notice that you are facing a removal hearing, being prepared is vital to your case. While the idea of being deported can be terrifying – especially if the United States has been your home for many years and living in your native country puts you in eminent danger – it is important that you approach the removal hearing with an understanding that there are steps you can take to prevent deportation and remain in the U.S.

A removal hearing is set after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determines that you have been charged with a violation of immigration law. In many cases, however, with an attorney who is experienced in immigration law as your advocate, you may be eligible to apply for relief from removal.

You’ve Received a Notice to Appear in Court. Now What?

If you have received a Notice to Appear (NTA) for removal proceedings, it means the government has initiated a legal process against you before the immigration court. An NTA is a list of allegations that the government must prove about you. The NTA also contains the charge(s) of removability. The NTA may contain the date, time, and location of when and where you have to appear before an immigration judge. If you do not show up on that date, you will be ordered removed in your absence.

Now is the time to hire a lawyer who can help you navigate the complex legal proceedings so you are more likely to see successful results. Removal from the United States is not automatic, despite the notice. Initially, the burden falls on the government to prove the allegations being made against you in the NTA to the immigration judge. If the government cannot meet its burden of proof, then the case against you should be terminated.  

If the government has the evidence to prove the allegations against you; or you, the immigrant known as the respondent in removal proceedings, admits the charges and allegations, removability will be established and the immigration judge may order you removed. That, however, does not mean that you will be removed from the U.S. A respondent may be eligible to apply for relief from removal. This means that, after review of both sides of the case, the immigration judge will make a determination of whether to grant your request for relief and allow you to remain in the U.S., or order you removed.

The Initial Hearing Determines How Your Case Will Proceed.

The initial hearing is called the Master Calendar hearing. You must attend that hearing, and every other hearing where you are scheduled to appear. Failure to appear in court will ensure that you will be more likely to be removed in your absence, regardless of the circumstances of your case.

As part of the hearing:

  • You will be questioned about legal representation. If you have not yet lined up counsel, you can be granted a continuance. You may waive your right to attorney, but this is not a smart move.
  • The grounds being considered for your removal will be discussed.
  • You will be advised of your right to have witnesses, as well as your right to have your attorney cross-examine government witnesses.
  • You will be advised of your right to appeal if the case does not result in a favorable outcome.
  • You will be asked your language preference.

You can, at the time of the hearing, request to leave the U.S. voluntarily, or you can ask for a merits hearing, which will give you and your legal team a chance to pursue any form of relief available to you that, if granted, would prevent you from being removed from the United States. If you ask for a merits hearing, the immigration judge handling your case will request documents and evidence, and set deadlines for the submission of those documents along with a date for the hearing itself.

What Will Happen at the Merits Hearing?

At the merits hearing, you will present your case and testify before the immigration judge. The government’s attorney or the immigration judge may ask you questions, too. You may also present witnesses and documents that support the facts of your case. The government will present its side of the case. The immigration judge will render a decision granting or denying your request for relief, based on the documents submitted, the testimony, and the law.

An Immigration Attorney Can Help Make the Process Easier

Receiving an NTA can be terrifying; but you do not need to face it alone! With over 23 years of experience in government immigration law, Sanchez-Roig Law, P.A., will do their best to help you stay in the country you call home, especially if deportation can be detrimental to you or those you love. If you need help with your case, call us at 305-373-5385 today.