I have been ordered to appear in immigration court; what’s going to happen to me?

NEWSLETTER – June 2017


Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.


I have been ordered to appear in immigration court; what’s going to happen to me?

Immigrants in the United States face many circumstances that other people will never encounter. This often includes being ordered to appear in immigration court.  Understandably, receiving such an order can cause a great deal of anxiety for immigrants and their families due to their lack of knowledge as to what will happen at their hearing.  Having some familiarity with the immigration court process may serve to alleviate an already stressful situation.

What is going to happen at my first hearing?

The first thing to know about appearing in immigration court is what will likely not happen at your first hearing.  First, it is highly unlikely that you will be apprehended at the immigration court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, at your first hearing.  Second, it is also highly unlikely that you will be ordered deported at your first hearing.

Can I have an attorney with me at my immigration court hearing?

By law, persons in immigration court have the right to be represented by an attorney of their choosing.  However, unlike criminal court, the government is not obligated to pay for an immigrant’s attorney. This means that the immigrant must pay for her attorney, or hire an attorney who will represent her free of charge.  Normally, at the first hearing an immigrant may request time to find an attorney, and immigration judges will usually grant that extension.  However, if you do not hire an attorney, the immigration judge will eventually proceed with your case and you will have to represent yourself.

Who is going to be in the court besides me?

It is also helpful to know who will be present in the immigration court during your hearing.  First, there will be an immigration judge wearing a black judge’s robe and seated on the judge’s bench.  Second, and most importantly, you will be present at the hearing seated at a table in front of the judge.  If you have an attorney, she will be seated next to you.  At another table will be an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, whose role is to represent the government.  Also present will be an interpreter who speaks your native language if you do not speak English.  Lastly, the immigration court is technically open to the public and there are benches in the back of the courtroom for observers.  However, in reality, the persons seated on those benches will likely be other immigrants and their attorneys waiting for their cases to be called by the judge.

Then what will happen?

Once you and your attorney are seated at the courtroom table, the judge will introduce the case on the record by stating your name and case number.  She will then ask you to state your name and address for the record.  The judge will also ask the attorneys to identify themselves for the record.  Then, the judge will usually ask your attorney to respond to the charges made against you, which will differ for each individual.  Your attorney will also be asked to identify what immigration relief you will be seeking from the judge.

A typical immigration court case requires about four court hearings.  Also, hearings are usually scheduled several months apart. Thus, depending on the particular court at which you have to appear, an immigration court case may take anywhere

from one to three years to be completed.

What is most important to know regarding any immigration court hearing you have scheduled is that you must appear, even if you do not have an attorney.  Also, you must appear even if you do have an attorney.  Indeed, your attorney cannot appear for you; you also have to be present before the judge.  Unfortunately, an immigrant’s failure to appear at any hearing will result in an automatic order of removal.

The type of relief for which you are eligible from the immigration court depends on the specific facts of your case.  Also, the procedures and case length differs for individuals who are in ICE detention.  As such, immigrants who have been ordered to appear in immigration court are highly encouraged to speak with an experienced immigration attorney in order to evaluate the specific facts of your case and your relief options.  The attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are available to provide you with a consultation. Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys at (619) 955-2024.

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