Immigration & Naturalization Law
The Immigration Removal Process
In some situations, immigrants to the United States may be deported if they are found to be there illegally. The immigration removal process typically begins when the Department of Homeland Security issues a Notice to Appear, or NTA. An NTA can be mailed or delivered in person by an immigration officer, and it contains essential information about the removal proceedings. Several different kinds of hearings may be scheduled as part of the process, including individual hearings, bond redetermination hearings and rescission hearings, each of which serves a very specific purpose.
Notice to Appear
This document is usually fairly brief, consisting of only a page or two. However, the information that it contains is extremely important to the removal process:
- Biographical Information - This includes name, aliases, date of birth, address and alien registration number.
- Nature of the Proceedings - This section of the NTA includes three categories: “You are an arriving alien”, “You are an alien present in the U.S. who has not been admitted or paroled”, or “You have been admitted to the U.S. but are removable” for the stated reason. Only one option will be checked.
- Factual Allegations - These statements are used as the basis for removability from the United States.
- Charges of Removability - This includes information about the immigration laws that may have been violated, and it forms the legal groundwork for the removal process.
- Date and Place of Removal Proceedings - This information may or may not appear on the initial Notice to Appear. If it doesn’t, a separate notice will be sent with the hearing date and time. This is the initial master calendar hearing for the removal proceedings.
- Legal Warnings - This section lists some rights and obligations of an individual presented with a Notice to Appear.
- Certificate of Service - The final section of the notice describes how it was delivered.
During removal proceedings, individuals or their attorneys will have to admit or deny the factual allegations and charges laid out in the Notice to Appear.
Master Calendar Hearings
The first hearing for many immigration removal cases is the master calendar hearing. This hearing is generally brief. Multiple master calendar hearings will be scheduled for a specific time block, and each individual case will be called one-by-one to answer a few questions. After these questions have been answered, the judge or government immigration attorney will set dates for future document deadlines or hearings. In general, no witnesses will be called during such a hearing, and no rulings regarding legal issues will be made.
Things that come up at a master calendar hearing include:
- A response to the factual allegations and charges of removability listed in the Notice to Appear
- What forms of relief, such as asylum, cancellation of removal or voluntary departure, the individual is seeking
- Dates for future hearings, potentially including a future master calendar hearing
An individual who fails to appear for the master calendar hearing may be deported in absentia, which makes it incredibly important to be on time.
The deportation trial is called an individual hearing, and it functions very similarly to other kinds of trials. Attorneys will make opening and closing statements, call witnesses and prepare exhibits of evidence. The defendant in these cases may hire an immigration attorney, but one will not be provided by the court.
During the trial, the Department of Homeland Security must prove that the individual on trial is removable from the United States.
Additional Types of Hearings
Several kinds of specific court dates can also be part of the removal process. Not all of them are relevant for every immigration case, however.
Bond Redetermination Hearing
In some cases, people who have been arrested based on immigration status can be released on bond, a payment that is forfeited if they fail to appear for court dates. Initially, the amounts of these bonds are set by the Department of Homeland Security. However, these individuals may request a bond redetermination in order to have a judge re-evaluate the amount.
This hearing determines whether the Immigration and Nationality Act or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment applies to an individual who has been ordered to be removed from the United States. If so, the person may be eligible for withholding of removal. A higher standard is generally required for withholding than for asylum.
These hearings apply in cases where someone may have been improperly granted lawful permanent resident status, and the outcome may be that the status becomes revoked.