What are Removal Proceedings?

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What are Removal Proceedings?

Hello everyone and welcome back to the blog of Kriezelman Burton & Associates. Immigration lawyer Erin Cobb here today to talk all about removal proceedings. A removal proceeding is a process by which the Department of Homeland Security tries to deport someone who they believe is in the United States in violation of the law. Now, you may know the word removal by its other name, deportation, which is no longer in use due to Congress changing the work in 1996.

Many people, but not all, who are present in the U.S. in violation of the law have the right to go through removal proceedings. In other words, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or  ICE, can’t simply pick someone off the street and deport them to their home country. Instead, ICE has to follow a procedure that’s set down in law. And importantly, the final decision is not up to ICE or DHS. Instead, it’s made by an immigration judge in court.

To help you better understand the process, we’re going to break it down into small parts. First, we have the judge who works for the Department of Justice, specifically, a part called the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Then, there is the ICE attorney who is like the prosecutor in a normal court setting. You then have the respondent, which is what the immigrant is called in removal proceedings, as well as the respondent’s attorney. In these proceedings, the ICE attorney is arguing for deportation, while the respondent and their attorney are arguing against it. The judge who oversees removal proceedings must apply the facts to the law and make a decision in a neutral way. 

It’s important to know that respondents have rights in removal hearings. These rights include the right to an attorney at their own expense, the right to present witnesses and their own evidence, and the right to examine any evidence against them. 

There are two questions that are answered during removal proceedings. The first is whether or not the person is removable from the United States. The second is if they are removable, is there any relief that they’re eligible for that would allow them to stay in the United States? For example, maybe the person is eligible for a waiver or for asylum, or perhaps even for their green card. It’s important to note that there is one kind of green card that you can apply for only in removal proceedings.

Now, all of the above does not happen in just one court date. Instead, it follows a set process. The first court date, as we discussed in our last blog post, is called a master calendar hearing. There, the judge meets the respondent, makes sure they are served the proper paperwork, and explains their rights to them. Most of the time, it then ends with something called an individual hearing, which is the big trial where evidence is presented, testimonies are given, and the judge issues their decision. 

Removal proceedings are not quick and they’re often complicated. It may take years for a person to move through the process. Importantly, though, please know that a respondent must attend every hearing in person. If they don’t, the judge could order them to be deported in their absence. 

If you or someone you know are preparing to being removal proceedings and need legal advice or representation, please contact the immigration lawyers at Kriezelman Burton & Associated. Immigration law is what we do.