Removal is the term currently used to describe deportation. When the U.S. government wants to remove a non-citizen (whether a lawful permanent resident or non-immigrant) from the country, s/he is placed in removal proceedings. Removal proceedings are handled by the Immigration Court. There are Immigration Courts throughout the U.S. As to where the removal proceedings will occur will be determined by the non-citizen’s place of domicile or where the removal proceedings were initiated by the U.S. government.
A Department of Homeland Security agency, like the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), begins removal proceedings by issuing a Notice to Appeal (NTA) to the non-citizen. In the NTA, the government will designate when and where to appear and the reasons for the removal proceedings and the government charges (immigration law violations) for removal.
Reasons for Removal
There are many reasons why non-citizens are placed in removal proceedings. The following are examples of immigration charges in an NTA:
- Overstayed their visa
- Committed a crime in the U.S. that makes them removable
- Entered the U.S. illegally and without inspection
- Committed fraud to receive an immigration benefit
- Had a previous removal or deportation and entered the U.S. illegally
What Happens in Immigration Court
When a non-citizen reports to Immigration Court s/he needs to plea to the charges stated in the NTA. To “plea” means to respond by admitting or denying to the government charges stated in the NTA. Thereafter, the non-citizen will tell the Immigration Judge what kind of form of relief, if any, from removal s/he would like to apply for and submit whatever application forms there are to support the form of relief. During this time that the non-citizen can also just admit to the charges and request to be removed from the U.S. or if eligible, request voluntary departure, from the country.
Forms of Relief from Removal in Immigration Court
Below are just examples of forms of relief from removal in Immigration Court if the non-citizen meets the eligibility requirements:
- Asylum, Withholding of Removal, or Protection under CAT (Convention Against Torture)
- Adjustment of Status to lawful permanent residence
- Cancellation of Removal
- Voluntary Departure
Note: When a non-citizen is placed in removal proceedings the Immigration Court or the U.S. government will not pay for an attorney to represent her/him. A non-citizen does not have the right to a Public Defender because a removal proceeding is considered a civil procedure not a criminal procedure. A non-citizen can defend herself/himself; however, it is highly advisable to seek the assistance of an Immigration Attorney especially since the U.S. government will have ICE trained attorneys representing the interest of the government.