November 24, 2020
Overview of Immigration Court (Executive Office of Immigration Review – EOIR)
Immigration Court (aka: Deportation Court) has a formal name called the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). Typically, an undocumented individual or a legal permanent resident or foreign national ends up in Immigration Court after detention at the border, after committing a crime, after having an application denied by Immigration (USCIS), after their visa has expired or after violating the terms of their visa.
Notice to Appear (NTA)
The individual is given a Notice To Appear (NTA). The NTA is a charging document and it tells you why Immigration wants to deport you. It will typically say:
- You are not a national or citizen of the USA.
- You are a citizen or national of XX country
- You entered on XX date
- You do not have a visa or entry document or your visa has expired or you were convicted of XX crime on XX date.
Or it may list that your status expired on XXX date, or that you have committed XXX crime/s.
The Immigration Judge will ask you if you admit the allegations and charge. If you find yourself in Immigration Court, you should hire an experienced attorney. The Government wants to deport you. By having an experienced attorney, you have the best chance at staying in the United States. Your attorney can review the NTA to see if there are any mistakes. Your attorney will also review all the documents to see what type of relief you may qualify for. Immigration law is complex and the government attorney in the court room is experienced. Being without an attorney, you will be at a disadvantage. The immigration judge may try to guide you in the right direction, but there are forms in English that need to be filled out. Different copies need to be made and sent to different addresses. It is not an easy streamlined process – especially if English is not your first language.
An example is, at one point, I had a client where ICE approached him after a family law court appearance at the local court house. The ICE officers were not wearing anything to suggest they were from ICE. They started calling my client another latino name (my client is latino). My client and his wife did not respond. The ICE officers became more aggressive and blocked my client from walking. Both him and his wife were scared. The ICE officers didn’t have a warrant, and my client was not the person they were looking for. With the help of our legal team at Bailey Immigration, we filed a motion to suppress the evidence ICE had and the case was dismissed against my client. He was no longer in Immigration Court. We then recommended the client’s United States Citizen wife apply for him and to file a provisional unlawful presence waiver (i601a) in order to get him documented.
We had another case were Immigration alleged that our client’s theft conviction was a crime involving moral turpitude. We argued it was not a crime involving moral turpitude and the case was dismissed against our legal permanent resident client.
Another client was detained by ICE after being convicted of a DUI involving alcohol. I was able to file cancellation of removal for nonlegal permanent residents. By proving that he was in the USA for 10 years, had not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, and that deportation would cause exceptional and extreme hardship on his United States Citizen child (she suffered from anxiety and depression), my client won his legal permanent residency (green card) in Immigration Court.
All in all, it’s important to have your NTA reviewed by a knowledgeable attorney to see when you should admit the allegations and charge on the NTA.
It is important to keep your address up to date after being served the NTA. You must keep your address up to date with the Court, ICE and Immigration. If you are sent a hearing notice, and you don’t receive it because you have moved and haven’t updated your address with the court, you will be ordered deported when you don’t show up to that hearing. You will lose your rights to pursue your case.
Hearing Notice and Master Calendar Hearing
After receiving the NTA, you may have a date and time of hearing on the NTA. You need to show up on that date and time to the Immigration Court listed or you will be ordered deported in absentia. Often times there is not a location and date of a hearing on the NTA, and in this case, you will be sent a hearing notice. Make sure to show up to the hearing or you will be ordered deported in absentia.
Master Calendar Hearing (MCH) and Individual Hearing (ICH)
During your first master calendar hearing, the Immigration Judge will typically continue the case once for you to find an attorney if you make this request. At the next master calendar hearing, the Immigration Judge expects you to be able to admit or deny the allegations on the NTA and tell the judge what type of applications (relief you will be filing). The Immigration Judge may set the case over for another master calendar hearing (MCH) to file the applications or for a contested charge or the Immigration judge may set your case for a final hearing (Individual hearing – ICH). At the ICH, the Immigration Judge will expect you to present your case to the court via testimony, documents that support your case, and testimony of any witnesses on your behalf. You must be extremely prepared for this hearing as it is your last hearing.
Decision & Appeals
The Immigration Judge will either make a decision at then end of your case that same day or may mail you their decision on a later date. When the Immigration Judge makes a decision, you and the government attorney may ‘reserve appeal’ if you or the government attorney believes the Immigration Judge made an incorrect decision. If appeal is reserved, then the decision is not final. Both parties have 30 days to file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals. If neither party files an appeal then the Immigration Judge’s decision is final. If an appeal is filed, the decision is not final and both parties can brief the legal issues for the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). This is also a time where having an experienced attorney is beneficial. The law is complicated and briefing legal issues without experience is difficult. Currently, it’s taking about 2 years for the Board of Immigration Appeals to make a decision. After this decision, there is 30 days for either party (you or the government) to file a Petition (which is similar to an appeal) with the Federal Circuit Court that has jurisdiction over the Immigration Court.