Deportation and Immigration Court

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Immigration officers can start a case against you in immigration court when you have violated certain immigration laws, either at the border or in the United States.

If you have a case before an Immigration Judge in court, you are in removal proceedings. Sometimes people call these deportation proceedings. The removal proceedings are to decide whether you should be deported from the United States. You should try to find an immigration lawyer who can help you through this process. It can be difficult to explain your case and know all the rules of the court without an expert.

How do I know that I have to go to Immigration Court?

You receive a Notice to Appear.

Removal proceedings begin when you get a Notice to Appear (NTA) from the government. This is an official notice that you have to go to immigration court and defend yourself from deportation. The NTA lists the charges or allegations against you, or the reasons the United States says you should be removed from the United States.

If you do not have a NTA, you should tell the Immigration Judge. Everyone with an immigration court case should receive a NTA.

The NTA may have a court date on it or it may say that you need to go to court in the future.

You receive a letter that says you have to appear in Immigration Court.

Instead of a Notice to Appear, you may receive a letter from the Department of Immigration Enforcement (ICE) telling you that you have a court date, or telling you that you will get a court date in the future.

If you are unsure if you have an upcoming hearing, use the EOIR Automated System.

You can also check the online system at the EOIR Automated Case Information System or you can call the Immigration Court (EOIR) hotline. The number is 1-800-898-7180.

  • When you call, the automatic hotline will ask you for your Alien Registration Number, or “A number.” This is a 9-digit number that should be on any documents you have from the government related to your immigration. An example is A 123 456 789. If your documents only have an 8-digit number, add a 0 before the first number. For example, A 098 123 123.
  • After you enter your A number, you can find out when your next court date is scheduled.
What do I do if I have an Immigration Court hearing?

Do not miss your Immigration Court hearings. If you do not attend then you may be ordered deported by the judge.

You may be able to attend your hearing by phone or video, but confirm this with the court. The Immigration Court is allowing people to attend court using a video program called WebEx. If your hearing is marked as an “Internet-based Hearing,” the hearing will be held entirely through WebEx. You do not need an account to attend your hearing through WebEx, but you will need the specific link for the judge who is assigned to your case. Here is a list of the court contact information and WebEx links.

You may have to attend your hearing in person. Call the court to confirm if you need to attend in person or can use video or phone. The Boston Immigration Court phone number is 617-565-3080.

When you are preparing to go to Immigration Court:

  • Look up the location of the Court. Make sure you know how to get there, and if you are driving, where you can park.
  • Arrive early. Make sure you leave time to go through the security line in the court.
  • Sign in. When you get to the courtroom, usually there will be a list where you should sign your name to let the Court know that you are ready. If you are not sure where to go ask court staff or the security guards.
  • Wait for your name to be called. If your name is not called, talk to someone who works in the Court before you leave the building.

The Immigration Court also has a help desk where you can get more information about your case, get help with some case matters, and get referrals for legal help. They are located at the Boston Immigration Court, or can be reached by phone at 617-464-8000 or email at [email protected].

What will happen at my Immigration Court removal hearing?

The first time you have a court hearing, you will have a “Master Calendar Hearing.” There will be several people in the courtroom (or on video):

  • The Immigration Judge. The Immigration Judge’s job is to make a decision about your case.
  • The government lawyer. This lawyer’s job is to try to show why you should be deported.
  • An interpreter. If you do not speak English well, the Immigration Court must have an interpreter for you. If there is no interpreter, ask for another hearing with an interpreter.
  • Your lawyer, if you have one. You should try to find a lawyer who can help you through this process. If you do not have a lawyer, you may ask the judge for more time to find one.

At the Master Calendar Hearing, the Immigration Judge may schedule another hearing to give the government a chance to prove why you should be deported or for you to submit applications that would stop your deportation. The judge may also give you more time to find a lawyer.

Another type of hearing an Immigration Judge can schedule is called an “Individual Hearing.” That’s when you have a chance to present your case to the judge if you believe you should not be deported under the law. The Individual Hearing is a chance for the Immigration Judge to consider all the evidence, arguments and to hear testimony from you or other witnesses.

Can I stop a deportation?

There are various ways you can defend against deportation. You should try to speak to a qualified immigration lawyer or a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative for legal advice about your case.

If you are eligible for a form of relief, you must submit an application to prevent your deportation.

Depending on what type of request you make before the judge, you may need to fill out an application and mail it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

For other types of requests you will complete an application that you will give to the Immigration Judge.

Always make copies of your forms. Give one copy to the government’s lawyer and keep one for yourself.

Another form of relief is called “Cancellation of Removal.” Some people call this “the ten year law.” To qualify, you must be in deportation proceedings and:

  • Have been living continuously in the United States for the past ten years;
  • Show that if you were removed from the United States, it would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to members of your family who are U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs);
  • Show that you have “good moral character”; and
  • Show that you have not been convicted of certain crimes or violated certain laws.

You can only apply for Cancellation of Removal before an immigration judge. If you think you might qualify for this form of relief and the government lawyer offers to “close” or “dismiss” your case, you may want to consider whether you qualify. If the immigration judge says you qualify for this status, you could get a green card and stop your deportation.

Can I ask for more time to find a lawyer?

Yes. You can ask the Immigration Judge for more time to find a lawyer. Usually the judge will give you a new date to come to court so that you have more time to hire a lawyer. A lawyer will not be provided for you.

What will happen if I don’t go to Immigration Court?

It is very important to attend every Immigration Court date, even if you do not have a lawyer. If you do not attend, the judge will give you an order of deportation, even if you are not there.

What happens if I move or change my address while my case is pending?

If you have had any contact with US immigration officials or you have ever gone to immigration court, it is very important to tell the immigration court and immigration officials every time you move so that you are notified when you have a hearing. You have five days after you move to give the court and immigration officials your new address. There is a special form to send with your new address. You can get the form at the immigration court or online. You must also send a copy to the government’s lawyer.  If you are unsure or have questions about how to tell the court you have moved, talk with an immigration lawyer or other service provider.

Who is at risk of deportation?

  • If you are an immigrant and citizen of another country, you could face deportation if you do not follow immigration laws. Only citizens of the United States face no risk of deportation.
  • You can be deported if you entered the United States without permission from the US government.
  • You can be deported if you entered with permission but stayed after your visa or permission expired.
  • You can also be deported for committing certain crimes, even if you have a valid visa or green card. If you find yourself in any of these situations, it is important that you attend all court hearings until your case is resolved.
  • Deportation is a very serious matter and you should not try to handle it by yourself. Get the help of an experienced immigration lawyer to learn more about your rights.
  • Even though the court does not give you a free lawyer, there are free or low cost lawyers who may be able to help you.  You have the right to a lawyer, just not a free one.  A list of free legal service providers can be found here.


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