If you’re a US citizen, deportation court is something you don’t need to worry about since, as a US citizen, you cannot be deported to another country. However, for millions of others living in the United States, removal from the country can be a constant worry. However, there are tactics to ensure you stay out of deportation court.
We’ll take a look at these tactics and strategies, along with what steps to take if you do find yourself facing an immigration judge.
Legally Avoiding Deportation Court
If you have a valid green card, the threat of deportation is rarely an issue. However, this can change if you commit a felony. Some felonies, like murder and armed robbery convictions, can trigger automatic deportation after serving your prison sentence. In these cases, there is very little an attorney can do to reverse the pending deportation decision.
You can also avoid deportation court if you’re legally married to a U.S. citizen; common-law marriages are not recognized by the immigration court. Foreign nationals with a child who is 21 years of age or older and also a U.S. citizen can also remain legally in the country, which also applies if you have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.
Navigating Deportation Court
Sometimes, a green card or visa is not enough to keep you out of deportation court, which usually happens when you commit or are convicted of a serious crime. Most misdemeanors, like a traffic ticket will not send you to immigration court, as long as your documents are valid.
However, some states not only categorize aggravated felonies as a possible reason for deportation. These states also have crimes of moral turpitude, and this is when the law can get confusing. For example, New Jersey considers shoplifting a crime of moral turpitude, and a conviction can send you to immigration court.
A good tip to follow is to always ask your immigration attorney or representative about the current laws in your state. Knowing what behaviors can lead to possible deportation can help you avoid making any missteps. So, what steps should you take if you find yourself in deportation court?
Retain Legal Counsel
The first and most important thing to do is to obtain legal counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an immigration lawyer to your case. Be honest about your situation, both in the United States and your home country. Depending on your circumstances in your home country, you may be eligible for a waiver.
Waivers typically apply to refugees without criminal histories, and battered women and children are also eligible. Sometimes, even with a criminal background. Individuals fleeing torture in their home countries can also try applying for asylum.
However, some felony convictions like aggravated robbery, murder, and other violent crimes can make you ineligible. Your legal representative will explain if you’re eligible for a waiver or cancellation of removal.
Review Your Immigration Status
Green cards and visas, both student and work, have strict requirements you must meet. Violating any of the terms can result in a trip to immigration court. These terms can include anything from moving to another state without informing immigration authorities to committing a felony or a crime of moral turpitude.
Before going to deportation court, it’s best to know your legal standings. Go over your documents and the requirements—if your crime is a misdemeanor, you may have a better chance of avoiding deportation. This information will also help your attorney plan an argument to support your stay in the United States.
If you left your home country due to violence or persecution, let your attorney know, as this may give you grounds for filing for a deportation waiver.
Whenever possible, gather evidence to support your case, which can include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Birth and/or marriage certificates
- Employment records and tax returns
- Medical records
- Letters of recommendation from employers, friends, and other professionals
Being able to provide documentation can go a long way toward supporting your case for remaining in the country.
Prepare for Your Court Appearance
Something you never want to do is miss a court date or an appointment with an immigration official, as missing a scheduled meeting can result in automatic deportation. Keep a calendar listing all of your court dates and meetings. You also want to stay in contact with your attorney, as sometimes the court will contact your attorney instead of you.
You may also want to take a quick tour of the courtroom, which can help alleviate some of the stress and fear you may be feeling. Going before an immigration judge can be a daunting experience. When you’re familiar with the courtroom, it can make the proceedings go a little more smoothly.
This is also a good time to talk to your attorney about your case. Review questions the judge or prosecutor may ask—this way, you can prepare your answers before the start of your case.
Stay Compliant with All Court Requests
Immigration laws can and frequently change, typically at the state level. Stay current with any changes that may affect your case. Along with staying compliant with all court dates, be ready to meet filing deadlines and any document requests.
Even if you have submitted a document, the judge or prosecutor may ask for it again. Don’t complain, simply resubmit the requested paperwork.
The court may also require you to regularly check in with the immigration office. Do not miss a check-in date, whether it is a required phone call or an in-person visit. Failing to stay in compliance with court requests can trigger an immediate call for deportation.
File an Appeal
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee the immigration judge will decide in your favor. If the ruling is against you, be ready to file an appeal, as the appeal may temporarily block your deportation date and give you another chance to legally remain in the United States.
Don’t Go to Deportation Court Alone
If you find yourself facing potential deportation, don’t go to court alone. Immigration laws are complex, and you need a skilled attorney to help navigate the ins and outs of your case.
Having the right counsel on your case can make all the difference in your outcome when it comes to getting through the deportation process.