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ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS

Sharlene Sharmila Richards

Sharlene Sharmila Richards

Q: My request for asylum was not granted by the asylum officer and I received a letter which says that my case has been referred to Immigration Court. What happens now?
A: You have been placed in removal proceedings. You will receive a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court. You will the opportunity to present your asylum case again, but this time, your case will be heard by an Immigration Judge. Before the Individual Hearing of the case, you will be permitted to update your asylum application and provide additional documents in support of your case. At the Individual Hearing, you will be given the opportunity to testify and to present witnesses to testify on behalf of your case, if needed. Be prepared to be questioned by the Government Attorney and also the Immigration Judge.
Q: What is a Calendar Hearing and an Individual Hearing?
A: A Master Calendar hearing is a short preliminary hearing in immigration court where the person in removal proceedings (referred to as the Respondent) will meet the Immigration Judge and the Government lawyer to decide how the Respondent’s case for removal should proceed. During this hearing, the Immigration Judge will take pleadings, decide on removability, designate a country of removal if not designated by the Respondent, and schedule the Respondent for submission of relief application(s). The Individual Hearing or sometimes referred to as the Merits Hearing is the final hearing when the Respondent’s case is heard. After all testimony has been heard, the Immigration Judge will then decide to grant or deny the relief sought.
Q: My two minor children and I were granted voluntary departure 5 years ago because there was no other form of relief available. I did not return to my home country and have remained in the United States. I married a US Citizen two years ago and he physically and mentally abused me and my two minor children. I feared for our safety and left my husband. We are now living in a homeless shelter. Is there anything I can do about our immigration case?
A: It may appear that you may have possible relief under the provisions of the Violence Against The Woman’s Act (VAWA)) for domestic violence and extreme cruelty. Your failure to depart the United States automatically transformed your failure to depart into a deportation/removal order. You will first need to reopen your removal case in Immigration Court. There are special provisions for VAWA applicants to file a motion to reopen outside the normal 90 day deadline of the date of when you received the voluntary departure. You may also need to file a stay of removal in conjunction with the motion to reopen. If the Immigration Court grants the reopening of your immigration case, you will be able to present your case with the court again. You may need to file a self-petition for abused spouse and child with USCIS and when that petition has been approved, it will constitute the basis for you to adjust your status to permanent resident at the court.
Q: I have just been placed in removal proceedings but do not have money to hire an Immigration Attorney to represent me. Can I ask the court to provide me with an attorney?
A: Immigration Court proceedings are not like criminal proceedings where the Defendant has the right to an attorney. In Immigration Court proceedings, if you decide not to retain your own counsel, you may inform the Judge that you are representing yourself. Clearly the better course of action is for you to retain competent counsel to assist you in preparing your defense against removal.

Disclaimer: Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case.
My Bio
Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. You may contact her at telephone number 713-623-8088 or by email at srichardslaw@aol.com to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.


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