By Attorney Robert L. Reeves and Lorena Larios Shah
Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are becoming a growing concern in the United States. During the month of October, ICE arrested over 2,600 people in the U.S. In the month of September, ICE arrested more than 1,500 people in the state of California. ICE agents targets people with deportation orders who failed to depart or departed, but returned to the United States illegally or any one else who has overstayed their visa. According to Virginia Kice, an ICE spokesperson, of the people arrested in California, approximately 595 had outstanding deportation orders.
People with deportation orders are clearly the most vulnerable to immediate detention and removal from the U.S. It is important to note that immigration law allows some individuals with deportation orders to reopen their immigration case and pursue some form of relief that can lead to legal permanent residency and citizenship. It is imperative that individuals with deportation or removal orders seek the immediate assistance of a reputable and experienced immigration lawyer to evaluate if a case can be reopened.
Deportation may be reopened by the filing of a motion to reopen. Generally, a motion to reopen must be filed within 90 days from the date the removal order was issued. A motion to reopen must also state new facts that were not previously available. There are exceptions to the 90 day filing rule. The following are some examples. First, if a person was ordered removed for failure to appear and did not timely receive notice of the time and place of the hearing. Second, if there is a change in country conditions in the person’s home country and the person fears returning. Third, where an alien falls victim to ineffective assistance of counsel or fraud by a non-lawyer such as a notary, paralegal, or immigration consultant. A benefit of filing a motion to reopen is that an immigration judge can issue a stay of removal which means that ICE cannot deport that person while the motion is being reviewed. In some cases a stay of removal is automatically set in place when the motion to reopen is properly filed.
Consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer is important given the political climate. The U.S. has a new president-elect and immigration reform is a pressing issue. President-elect Obama has ensured that the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. will have some path to citizenship. What immigration lawyers do not know right now is whether that will cover individuals with previous deportation orders or those that were deported and re-entered the U.S.