The Nuts and Bolts of Deportation Proceedings

By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Devin M. Connolly

For millions of non-U.S. citizens, simply hearing the word “deportation” evokes fear.  They may not know how or why a person gets deported, but they do know they want to continue living in the United States with their family enjoying this country’s freedoms and opportunities.  One fact these non-U.S. citizens should know is that a really good immigration attorney may be able to prevent them from being deported.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the authority to deport non-U.S. citizens, (referred to as aliens). However, this authority does not simply permit them to put a person on a plane and return them to their native country.  Rather, an alien has a right to due process. This includes a full and fair hearing in Immigration Court to fight against being deported.

Deportation proceedings are presently called “Removal Proceedings.”  Removal proceedings are initiated when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues a “Notice To Appear” (“NTA”) to an alien.  An NTA may be issued for a variety of reasons, including overstaying on a tourist visa, previous misrepresentation, use of fraudulent documents to obtain an immigration benefit or a criminal conviction. 

In Immigration Court, a government attorney will argue that the alien should be deported from the U.S.   Fortunately, the alien, has the right to obtain an attorney and contest deportability.  Aliens have the right to apply for relief in Court that would allow them to remain in the U.S.

While many aliens have limited resources and many appear without a lawyer, they should know that the government’s attorney will be a skilled prosecutor. The alien will be at a distinct disadvantage if they decide to represent themselves.

An alien’s first hearing in Immigration Court can be very intimidating. It’s called a “Master Hearing” and is very important to the alien’s chances of being permitted to remain in the U.S.  At this hearing the, the alien must, among other things, address the factual allegations and legal charges that DHS has set forth in the NTA. That is also the time to inform the court what relief they are seeking in order to remain in the United States. Despite what many believe, an Immigration Judge will not allow a person to remain in the U.S. solely because they have family members in the U.S. or because they have lived in the U.S. since childhood, or because they are a good law abiding person. Knowledge, experience and court room skills are essential to ensure that the alien’s rights are protected.

The next step is an Individual Hearing, at which the alien will present their case to the Immigration Judge.  They may present their case through oral testimony, written declarations, and a variety of additional documents. A good immigration attorney understands what documentary evidence and oral testimony is necessary in order to convince an Immigration Judge that the alien is eligible and deserving of the requested relief.

The presentation of clear and convincing evidence is vital since aliens have the burden of proving that they are eligible for the requested relief.  This includes dealing with both the positive and negative aspects of the case in the most effective ways.

Fighting deportation in immigration court can be very stressful without a good attorney.  Statistics shows that alien who are properly represented in immigration court have a far greater success rate than those who appear without an attorney. For this reason it is always advisable to retain the services of an experienced, knowledgeable and skillful immigration attorney.