If you are facing the possibility of removal or deportation from the United States, our attorneys will vigorously and aggressively represent you in Immigration Court. We are dedicated to representing clients facing deportation in the Houston area. You may face deportation or removal if you have committed a crime, if you entered the U.S. illegally, or if you overstayed your visa. You may be deported even if you have lived in the United States for a long time, and even if you are a lawful permanent resident.
While there are several types of removal proceedings, the most common form is a legal proceeding under section 240(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Proceedings begin with the issuance and filing of a Notice to Appear, a copy of which is given to the individual who is charged. The Notice to Appear contains the factual allegations and the legal charge of removability or inadmissibility. The case is assigned to an Immigration Judge, who is an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review.
The individual in removal proceedings has certain rights, including (1) the right to counsel at no cost to the government; (2) the right to present evidence; (3) reasonable opportunity to examine evidence; (4) right to cross-examine opposing witnesses; (5) a complete record of all testimony and evidence produced at the hearing; and (6) the right to appeal the Immigration Judge's decision.
The location of the removal proceedings is sometimes a hotly contested issue. An individual may seek to change the location, or "venue" of the proceedings to a different immigration court. Venue initially lies in the jurisdiction where the Notice to Appear is filed with the Court. Some relevant factors in deciding whether to change venue include (1) location of witnesses; (2) cost of transporting witnesses or evidence; (3) importance of the evidence; (4) administrative convenience; (5) residence of the individual; and (6) relative harm to both sides in granting or denying the motion.
There are two main issues in most removal cases - first, whether the individual is, in fact, removable, and second, whether the individual is eligible for relief from removal despite the removability. Whether the individual is removable is generally argued before the Immigration Judge at one or more "master calendar" hearings scheduled by the Judge. If the Judge determines that the individual is not removable, the proceedings are terminated. If the individual is found to be removable, counsel for the individual must then identify to the Court the legal forms of relief for which the individual is eligible.
If the Court determines that the individual is, in fact, legally eligible for the relief sought, the Judge gives deadlines and requirements for the filing of all applications for relief. The Judge also schedules an "individual" hearing for the presentation of the evidence in support of the relief application.
Adjustment of status: If the individual was admitted to the U.S. after inspection (or is otherwise eligible for adjustment) and has a qualifying relationship with a relative or employer, the individual may apply for adjustment of status. The Department of Homeland Security must adjudicate the underlying visa petition, and then, if the visa petition is approved, the Immigration Judge adjudicates the application for adjustment of status.
Cancellation of Removal for Permanent Residents: A Permanent Resident may seek cancellation of removal if he has been a permanent resident for at least five years, has resided continuously in the U.S. for at least 7 years (in any lawful status) and has not been convicted of an aggravated felony.
Cancellation of Removal for Non-Permanent Residents: A non-permanent resident may apply for cancellation of removal if he has resided in the U.S. for at least 10 years immediately before the application, has had good moral character during the 10 year period, and there is an exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent or child, and has no conviction for certain types of crimes.
Waivers: Various violations of immigration laws and criminal laws may make an individual removable or inadmissible, and therefore subject an individual to removal. However, waivers are available in some cases to waive the ground of inadmissibility or removability.
Voluntary Departure: Voluntary departure requires an individual to leave the U.S., but is generally preferable to a removal order. Voluntary departure prior to the conclusion of proceedings requires that the individual show the ability to leave the U.S. at his own expense, that he has not committed or been convicted of an aggravated felony, that he waives his right to appeal and makes no additional request for relief. If this form of voluntary departure is granted, the Judge may give the individual up to 120 days to depart, and can require the posting of a bond. Voluntary departure at the conclusion of proceedings requires departure within 60 days, requires a showing of good moral character for 5 years, but does not require the waiver of the right to appeal.
Asylum: An applicant for asylum must prove that he is unable or unwilling to return to his home country because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Please note that we do not handle asylum cases at this time.
Withholding of removal is a form of relief similar to asylum, but carries a higher burden of proof and provides more limited relief. If the individual fears torture at the hands of the government or individuals who have the acquiescence of the government, and can show the likelihood of torture, he may seek special relief under the Convention Against Torture.
Please contact the United States deportation attorneys at Christiansen Law Firm in Houston for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.
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