The immigrant community in the United States has always been an important part of American culture. In fact, the US is home to the largest immigrant population in the world, numbering 47 million people back in 2015! And in 2016 alone, the US welcomed a further 1,183,505 immigrants.
But immigration proceedings in the United States are not always the most straight forward. Failing to comply with them could result in an immigration hearing.
If this happens try not to panic. Understanding how an immigration court hearing works is the first step to making sure you stay in the country. Want to know more?
Then you’re in the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about the immigration court process.
The Start of Immigration Proceedings
The Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR is in charge of all immigration proceedings. If they want to call you for a hearing you will hear about this when you receive a Notice to Appear or NTA.
This is a document that accuses you of being in the country unlawfully and outlines why the EOIR is charging you with this. It is important to read this document fully as it can really help you to prepare for your hearing.
After receiving an NTA, you should keep an eye out for further notices from the EOIR. They will send you another notice from an immigration court informing you of when your hearing will be. You should receive this anywhere between a week and a month after you get your NTA.
It is extremely important that you turn up to this hearing on time. Failing to do so will weaken your case and could result in deportation.
At the moment, there are more immigration cases in the system than ever before. So you may have to wait a while for your hearing date. This may be up to a year after you receive your initial NTA.
In border states, such as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California, the rate for immigration detention is significantly higher. Here you can expect to wait much longer for your initial hearing.
Your Immigration Master Hearing
A master calendar hearing will be your first type of immigration hearing. These are often very short, lasting around fifteen minutes.
At this hearing, you and your lawyer can discuss any issues with your case that you’d like to address. These may be minor or could be a challenge to the whole case.
Minor challenges include things like needing to change the location of your hearing to suit you better. Or a judge may delay the hearing if you need more time to organize legal representation.
If you have been detained then this is an opportunity to request an immigration bond and release from jail. You will need specific documents in order to do this. You can find out more about what to bring to a bond hearing here.
At this initial hearing, an ICE attorney will also be present and act as a prosecutor for your case. This is why it’s a good idea to have legal representation with you every step of the way. They will help you make the strongest case from the very beginning.
If the judge decides that your case is okay to proceed then they will set a date for your individual hearing.
Your Individual Hearing
Your individual hearing is much more in-depth and examines the details of your immigration case. This is what a judge will use to make a decision on whether or not you will remain in the country.
These hearings typically last four hours. However, some cases take much longer to review and the court has to schedule further hearings.
To begin with, your lawyer and the ICE attorney will both present evidence for and against your case. This evidence can come in all shapes and sizes and may require extensive research. Once both lawyers have presented their arguments and evidence, they will each have the opportunity to respond to the others’ cases.
It’s important that you are honest with your lawyer in the lead up to your individual hearing. You should provide them with as much detail of your entry into the country as possible.
This will allow them to create a strong case for why you should stay. And it will ensure that the ICE attorney doesn’t surprise them with new information on the day.
At the end of your hearing, the judge will make a court immigration decision on your case. This means that you’ll hear on the day about the outcome of your case. Occasionally a judge will decide to deliver their decision in writing at a later date but this is very rare.
Once you have received this decision the hearing process is over. But this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for your immigration proceedings.
Appealing the Court’s Decision
You and your lawyer can make an appeal against the judge’s decision if you’re not happy with it. Appeals work by addressing how the court misinterpreted immigration law during your hearing.
You can appeal your case by filing a motion to reopen your case or to reconsider the decision. You must file this with the Board of Immigration Appeals once you receive the judge’s decision. You have ninety days to file for the case to be reopened or thirty days to appeal for reconsideration.
It’s important to note that ICE attorneys can also appeal the outcome of your case. This can come as an unpleasant surprise if you get a favorable outcome after your individual hearing.
But if an appeal doesn’t go well for your first time around, it’s possible to address this with another appeal. Before you do this, take the time to consider how long the appeal process takes.
This could add six months to your case and cost you a lot. It’s always a good idea to discuss making an appeal with an attorney before you file it. They will be able to give you realistic expectations of an appeal’s outcome.
The Bottom Line
Facing immigration proceedings is a daunting time for anyone but knowing what to expect can help you prepare in the best way possible. This is absolutely vital for making the strongest case possible.
If you’re unsure of your immigration status, you can find out how to check it here. Or get in touch for help securing an immigration bond for yourself or a loved one. We offer bonds for immigration cases in any state across the country and are happy to help!