The concept of immigration proceedings can be very confusing for some, with misinformation constantly propagated about what occurs and what a court can do during such hearings. If you or a loved one has been placed into removal proceedings, the situation can be stressful, but all is not necessarily lost. Being aware of what exactly occurs at such proceedings can help ease fears.
The Master Calendar Hearing
The first step in the process is the master calendar hearing, and while it is not required that you bring an attorney, it is recommended. Regardless of whether or not you have one, you absolutely must attend this hearing—if you do not, you will almost certainly be ordered removed in absentia. In other words, the judge will assume that since you did not appear, you have no defense to the charge of removability.
Appearing at the master calendar hearing allows you to contest the allegations of removability, assuming you are able. If you cannot, you may still be able to negotiate what is referred to as voluntary departure. Voluntary departure is just that—voluntarily leaving the United States, rather than being deported. If someone is granted voluntary departure, it means that there will be no bar against his or her return, as there would be otherwise—he or she simply must obtain the appropriate visa abroad.
If you have grounds to contest removability, such as intent to apply for asylum, an individual hearing will then be scheduled. It is there you will present your proofs.
The Individual Hearing
The individual hearing, also called a merits hearing, is when you are permitted to present your case. This is when you and your attorney present witness statements, documents, and any other relevant evidence that speaks in favor of your being permitted to remain in the United States. For example, a person trying to claim asylum in the U.S. might present evidence detailing danger in his or her home country, or witness statements detailing episodes of persecution. A person alleging a relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as an Amerasian seeking his or her biological father or mother, might present medical records.
With individual hearings, the judge will usually issue a decision on the same day, as opposed to appeals or rulings in other areas of law, which can take weeks or months,. You must reserve the right to appeal if you lose your case, meaning that you must tell the court you plan to appeal (but if matters change, you are not required to appeal). If you win, you are then either granted asylum or given leave to start applying for permanent residence or any other visa for which you have shown you qualify.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help
Immigration proceedings can be some of the most frightening and confusing moments in a person’s life. Having knowledgeable assistance can be critical for your peace of mind. The Chicago, IL immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well versed in going through removal proceedings with clients, and we will do our best to keep you in the place you need to be. Contact us today to set up a free consultation at any of our offices.
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