When removal proceedings are instituted against you, you will receive what is called a Notice to Appear (NTA) in the mail. An NTA essentially informs you officially that you have been placed in immigration removal proceedings, and that you must appear in front of an immigration judge at a date in the future to plead your case. This can be a worrisome situation, especially if you do not understand the nature of the proceedings or if there are other confusing details.
One important thing you should be aware of is that by law, you are entitled to at least ten days between your receipt of the NTA and your master calendar hearing, which is the hearing at which you go before the immigration judge and articulate whether or not you intend to fight removal. (Given the immigration court backlog as of this writing, your master calendar hearing may be very much delayed beyond 10 days.) In the time between receipt of the NTA and your master calendar, it is a good idea to verify that all the information on the NTA is correct, and to take steps to fix it if there is an error.
The NTA should have your correct name, address, and other biographical information, as well as your A-number (the number assigned to you for immigration court proceedings). It will also list the charges for which you are allegedly removable from the United States. Be advised that since July 2018, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased authority to issue NTAs for issues that might otherwise not warrant someone being placed in removal proceedings, for example, if someone is lawfully present but their request to amend or adjust status is denied, thus leaving them out of status - even one day may be enough to warrant issuing an NTA and placing the person in removal proceedings, under the current administration.
Once you have your master calendar hearing, you may choose to fight removal, and if you do, then you will be scheduled for what is called an individual hearing - but given the current immigration court backlog, many individual hearings are being scheduled for months or even years away. In the most extreme examples of non-detained immigrants in slow districts, people may wind up waiting over 2,400 days (approximately 6.5 years) for their individual hearings.
This backlog and unwillingness to grant exceptions or accept minor mistakes is another reason why ensuring the NTA is accurate is so critical. If USCIS makes an error in bookkeeping and gives you the wrong date or time, you will be treated as though you willfully missed your hearing date, even though the fault may not be yours. If this happens to you, a removal order will likely be issued in absentia for you, and you may lose any right to remain in the United States, even though you will technically have done nothing wrong.
Getting an NTA can be a terrifying experience, but if you have experienced representation on your side, it does not have to feel quite so hopeless. The skilled Chicago deportation defense lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices, LLC can try and help you through the process, and fight for your rights. Contact our office today by calling for a free consultation.
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