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Any non-citizen arrested by the immigration authorities such as by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agency is subject to potential removal (i.e. deportation) from the United States. However, ICE cannot simply remove/deport a non-citizen without an order from an immigration judge allowing it to do so. And an immigration judge cannot order a non-citizen removed/deported from the United States without first affording that person an opportunity to be heard on the issue. This is what immigration court is all about – the removal/deportation of persons and their right to relief from removal/deportation.What is Immigration Court?
There are more than 400 immigration judges spread throughout the approximately 60 immigration courts nationwide. In southern Nevada, the Las Vegas immigration court is located in downtown Las Vegas and has 5 judges that preside over immigration cases. The immigration courts fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). During court, immigration judges, all of whom are appointed by the federal government, advise unlawfully residing individuals of their legal rights, hear testimony/view evidence, and make the ultimate ruling on whether they qualify to stay in the United States or whether they must be removed.
The first step for a person to end up in immigration court is to be issued what is called a Notice to Appear (NTA). This is simply a charging document that alleges that a person is illegally in the United States and seeks to have them removed. Once this person receives this document, he or she will be required to appear in immigration court to answer to the charges. The fact that a person is placed into removal proceedings does not mean they will necessarily be deported. If a person qualifies under certain categories of relief, they can remain in the United States even if they are otherwise deportable. For example, a victim of a serious crime can be eligible to apply for an immigration benefit providing protection from deportation and granting lawful permanent residency.Immigrants Have Constitutional Rights
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that “no person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Due process is one of the most important legal concepts in the United States. What it means in the most basic terms is that a person accused of something or who the government seeks to deprive of something has the right to a proper hearing on the issue. In Reno v. Flores, a 1993 Supreme Court case involving due process rights in the context of an immigration case, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote “it is well established that the Fifth Amendment entitles aliens to due process of law in deportation proceedings.”
Because of the consequences that can attach to legal proceedings in the immigration situation, it is very important to have a lawyer that both understands immigration law and constitutional principles that apply to immigration cases. While you may have rights under the language of a specific statue passed by the United States Congress, it is important to understand you also have significant rights under the Constitution.What to Expect in Las Vegas Immigration Court
If you’re required to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings, you should be aware that there are two different types of hearings you must attend: a master calendar hearing and an individual calendar hearing.Master Calendar Hearing
This is the first hearing you will attend in immigration court and takes a short amount of time to complete.
Here’s is what you may expect in a master calendar hearing:
- You will be placed in front of the immigration judge to discuss your case
- You will have the opportunity to admit or deny the allegations stated in your Notice to Appear (NTA) documents and determine available relief from deportation
- You may or may not have more than one master calendar hearing
During the individual hearing, which occurs after the master calendar hearing, the judge is ready to be presented with evidence to make a final ruling for deportation.
The process in an individual hearing may include:
- Opening statements (usually done by attorneys)
- Objections to evidence presented by your party or the government
- Witness testimony and material evidence
- Closing statements
- Decision issued by the judge or schedule for a secondary hearing
Based on the facts surrounding your case, such as your background, supporting evidence/testimony, and eligibility for immigration protection, the immigration judge may decide whether you must be deported or whether you should be granted immigration protection.
If the judge decides you’re ineligible for immigration protection, you may have the opportunity to appeal or apply for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal, Form I-212, after deportation.