Whether an immigrant is documented or undocumented, he or she may one day receive what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calls a Notice To Appear (NTA). Receiving an NTA does not automatically mean that someone is going to be deported, but it does alert the recipient that there has been an alleged violation of immigration law. If you receive an NTA, it is imperative that you understand what it actually means, and why you may be on the proverbial hook. If you do not, it will harm your ability to put on a good defense.
The sole reason why you might receive an NTA is because the U.S. government believes you are removable (deportable) from the country, for whatever legal reason. This does not only apply to undocumented immigrants; if someone enters the country legally and then overstays, or has committed a crime, he or she may also become removable. He or she will also receive an NTA if his or her situation requires it. The “appear” in the Notice To Appear is an advisory that you are permitted to plead your case before a judge, and to articulate any special circumstances.
An NTA is a fairly simple piece of paper, with three sections spelled out in relatively simple terms. Your name and alien registration number will be prominently displayed (to ensure the notice reaches the right person), and below it the notice will state both the potential proceedings against you and the reason why those proceedings are legally valid. The most common reasons the government alleges removability are (1) being undocumented; (2) having committed a particular crime or series of crimes called aggravated felonies; or (3) being a trafficker of certain controlled substances (such a crime is not technically an aggravated felony).
The Hearing is Critical
After receiving an NTA, you will be requested to appear at what is called a Master Calendar hearing. At the Master Calendar hearing, you (and your attorney) will have an opportunity to either concede removability or to deny the charges. If you deny the charges, you will be scheduled for a merits hearing, at which you will be able to properly plead your case.
Conceding removability does not necessarily mean immediate deportation, however, as certain defenses or relief from removal exist which may earn you at least a stay. Examples include claiming cancellation of removal under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or requesting protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
If you are unsuccessful in your merits hearing, this also does not mean that you must depart the U.S. immediately, as you have appeal rights in most cases. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) hears cases from all immigration courts, though it is important to keep in mind that the BIA does not grant asylum or other forms of relief; they merely hold that the immigration judge may have erred in not doing so. If your appeal is remanded to the immigration judge, it will be the judge who decides your fate, not the Board itself.
Contact an Immigration Attorney ASAP
Receiving a Notice To Appear is not an immediate cause for panic, but it does mean that you will likely have a tough fight ahead of you, especially under the current administration. Getting an experienced attorney on your side as quickly as possible can be a huge help. The skilled Chicago deportation defense lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will work hard and fight for you. Call our office today to set up a free consultation.
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