Immigration court is unlike any other civil or criminal court in the United States. The rules are different. The procedures are different. The process is daunting and confusing. For immigrants who must go before a judge in immigration court, there is no right to a court-appointed lawyer even when you cannot afford one. So, they are on their own, including children, for an event that may be one of the most significant in their lives.
At The Trevino Law Firm, PLLC, our immigration attorneys help clients defend against removal from the United States by ways of different forms of relief, including cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, and asylum, among other things. Legal representation makes hearings more meaningful for immigrants and the process more efficient for the court system. Contact us at 210.227.3200 to schedule a Consultation. We will review your case and outline the next best steps to take.
Types of Cases before Immigration Courts
The immigration court hears a wide range of cases related to immigration law. Some of the most common types of cases that go before the immigration court include:
- Asylum Cases: Individuals who fear persecution in their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may apply for asylum in the United States. Asylum cases are typically heard by the immigration court as a form of relief to removal.
- Adjustment of Status: Certain individuals in the United States may be eligible to adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents before an immigration judge while in removal proceedings
- Bond Hearings: When an individual is detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), they may have the opportunity to request a bond hearing to determine whether they can be released from detention while their case is pending.
- Cancellation of Removal: Individuals facing deportation but who have been living in the United States for a certain period of time (typically 10 years for undocumented immigrants and 7 years for permanent residents) may be eligible for cancellation of removal, which allows them to remain in the United States.
- Convention Against Torture (CAT): Immigrants who fear they will be tortured if they are returned to their country of origin, birth, or citizenship, may qualify for relief under CAT if they can prove the likelihood of the same.
- Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Certain immigrant children may qualify for a green card or avoid deportation if they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Family members and children who have been subjected to abuse by a spouse or parent may qualify for legal status under VAWA if the abusive spouse or parent is a legal permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
- Withholding of Removal: Immigrants who fear for their safety or freedom if they return to their country of origin may be able to obtain relief (similar to asylum) if they have been in the United States for more than a year.
- Appeals: Individuals who have received an unfavorable decision from a USCIS officer or immigration judge may appeal their case to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is also part of the immigration court system.
The immigration court is not part of the criminal justice system and does not handle criminal cases. It is also not a part of the civil system and does not handle lawsuits or other civil matters and so does not follow the same procedures or timelines. The immigration court is specific only to immigration matters and has its own procedures and timelines.
What to Expect at an Individual Hearing
During an immigration hearing, the immigration judge will preside over the proceedings and make decisions based on the evidence and arguments presented by the parties involved.
The following is a summary of the general flow of an immigration hearing.
- Preliminary Matters: The judge will begin by identifying the parties, reviewing any relevant documents, and explaining the purpose of the hearing.
- Testimony and Evidence: The parties will present their case by offering evidence, documents, and witness testimony. The judge will ask questions to clarify any issues or inconsistencies in the evidence.
- Legal Arguments: The parties will also present legal arguments, citing relevant laws and regulations, to support their position.
- Closing Arguments: After all the evidence has been presented, the parties will have an opportunity to make closing arguments summarizing their case.
- Decision: The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence and arguments presented. If the case involves an individual's eligibility to remain in the United States, the judge may either grant relief or order the individual to be removed from the country.
Immigration hearings can be complex and involve many legal and factual issues. The parties may be represented by attorneys, and interpreters may be present if needed to assist with communication.
Legal Representation in an Immigration Court
Individuals who appear before the immigration court have the right to be represented by an attorney. In fact, it's highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney, as the immigration court proceedings can be complex and the consequences of an adverse decision can be severe, such as deportation or denial of a visa application. Plus, an attorney can help you understand your legal options, prepare your case, and present the strongest possible arguments to the judge.
An experienced immigration lawyer can also help you:
- Identify any potential legal issues or pitfalls in your case
- Gather evidence to support your case
- Develop a legal strategy tailored to your individual circumstances
- Ensure that your rights are protected throughout the court process, such as ensuring that you are not coerced into signing a voluntary departure or waiving your rights to appeal
Contact Us Today
While having an attorney is not required, it can greatly increase your chances of success in the immigration court. An attorney can help you prepare your case, gather evidence, present legal arguments, and protect your rights during the hearing.
At The Trevino Law Firm, PLLC, we will review your case and look for all possible solutions. If you qualify for a particular program, we will identify and prepare for it. If another type of relief applies, we will strategize and gather supporting documentation to build your case. Speak to our immigration attorneys today by filling out the online form or calling us at 210.227.3200 to schedule a Consultation and to discover what legal options are available.