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You Can't Just Get Deported. Learn the Truth About Removal Proceedings

On December 23, 2015 the Washington Post reported that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has planned raids targeting individuals with a final order of removal from an immigration judge. These raids, which will target both adults and children, are scheduled to begin as early as January 2016.

According to National Public Radio, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) press secretary neither confirmed nor denied the information regarding the raids. 

News reports about the raids have many illegal aliens concerned about possible deportation from the United States. While placement in deportation proceedings is serious, it must be understood that an alien unlawfully present in the United States cannot just be “thrown out of the country”. Generally, removal from the United States must undergo certain due process. 

Except in the case of expedited removal, an illegal alien must first be allowed a full hearing before an immigration judge. Customarily, a removal proceeding has the following phases:

  • Bond Hearing
  • Master Calendar Hearing
  • Individual Hearing (or Hearing on the Merits)

Bond Hearing

When an individual is in immigration custody, he or she may request a bond hearing. During a bond hearing a respondent (the individual in proceedings) may request to pay a bond in exchange for release from immigration custody. In certain cases a respondent may be ineligible for bond. Should a respondent be eligible for a bond, he or she is released on her own recognizance until the next removal hearing.

Ordinarily, a bond hearing occurs before or after a master calendar hearing. At times the bond hearing occurs at the same time as a master calendar hearing; however, the hearings are two separate proceedings.

Master Calendar Hearing

During a master calendar hearing the respondent is given the opportunity to address the reasons why the government is seeking removal from the U.S. and provide any defenses. Before or during a master calendar hearing the government will issue the respondent a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA is a document that identifies the specific reasons for deportation, often referred to as allegations, and the legal basis for deportation, often referred to as charges.

The respondent will either admit the allegations and concede the charges in the NTA or contest the NTA. Following the pleading of the NTA, the respondent is given the opportunity designate a country of removal, identify any defenses of removal (cancellation of removal, asylum, etc.), and file applicable applications.

Individual Hearing

The final hearing in removal proceedings is called the individual hearing or the hearing on the merits. During this hearing the respondent is given the opportunity to put on a full case before the immigration judge. The respondent may present witnesses, supporting documentation, and any relevant evidence in their defense. 

At the end of the individual hearing, the immigration decides to either grant immigration relief or deport the respondent. Should the immigration judge order the respondent deported or removed from the United States, he or she may appeal the decision. The respondent has 30 days to appeal the decision. During these 30 days the respondent may not be removed from the U.S. Following the 30 days, the immigration judge’s order of removal is final.

Order of Removal

Once the respondent receives a final order or removal ICE officers will remove the individual from the United States. ICE is supposed to remove the individual from the United States within 90 days of the order; however, due to limited resources this time may be delayed.

 ICE will generally send individuals not in custody a Form I-166, commonly called a “Bag and Baggage” letter. This letter will provide the individual with the date, time, and location to appear for removal from the United States. It is the individual’s responsible to adhere to the order of removal. 

Should the individual fail to appear for removal the individual faces serious immigration consequences, including being subject to ICE apprehension and ineligibility from most forms of immigration benefits.

 The focus of the aforementioned ICE raids will reportedly be individuals subject to a final order of removal. It is presumed the targets of the ICE raids went through the entire removal process mentioned above.

Houston Deportation Defense Attorney

Tatiauna Holland is an immigration attorney based in Houston, Texas. She advocates for clients in removal proceedings and other complex immigration issues. She represents clients in Houston and the surrounding areas, including Conroe and the Woodlands.