Facing Deportation? Even immigrants have rights. 5 things to know about removal

Anyone who reads these blog posts will see an ever-growing trend. Nearly 3 million deportation under Obama. (They have been calling it “removal” since 1997 but it’s the same thing). And since the Trump administration came into power, more people than ever walk around, afraid of deportation.

But here’s the thing, even if you don’t have residency in the United States, you still have rights. It’s important to understand that most people have recourse when faced with deportation. In my more than two decades as an immigration lawyer I have seen thousands of deportation cases end favorably. But this only works if you TRY. Many immigrants don’t even realize they have the right to a lawyer!

If you or someone you know and love is faced with the prospect of deportation, what you must know is the following:

1. You have a right to a hearing in MOST cases. In the past few years we have seen more “expedited removal” cases (a fast track to deportation without a hearing), and Trump has talked about  expanding the use of that approach by limiting prosecutorial discretion. Also those who overstay their visas can be deported without trial. If this is you, you can still call a lawyer right away!
2. You have the right to an attorney IF you can afford one. While there is always a lack of pro bono lawyers around, we all do it when we can. More importantly if you have the funds, you have the right to call in a lawyer to help. And it’s advisable to do so.
3. To be clear, you have the right to a lawyer, but unlike in criminal cases, the right to counsel does not include free legal representation. Some great organizations work tirelessly in a pro bono capacity but they’re not all over the US.
4. You thus must find your own lawyer and retain services for legal defense.
5. You have the right to understand the court proceedings. The court will provide an interpreter in any language, no matter what, for anyone on trial or witnesses whose first language is not English.

Deportation is serious, and your defense lawyer should be serious too

Please understand that this process is very complicated. Appealing a deportation order is harder than stopping one in the first place. If you have the opportunity it is better to call an immigration lawyer immediately.

Do your research. Do not just call local attorneys who say that they “do immigration cases. Do not start by asking for a free consultation. This is your life. NOT the time to go bargain hunting.

Look for a lawyer who concentrates in deportation defense. Ask how long they have been practicing and what they can tell you about your case, how often they appear in Immigration Court, and how many similar cases they have handled.

You wouldn’t go to a eye doctor for heart surgery

Again, this is your life. Do not let the cost dictate who you hire. Be sure that you feel comfortable putting your life in another’s hands. Nobody brags about what a great bargain they got from the doctor who performed successful, life-saving heart surgery or cured their cancer.

Too many folks come into our office, looking to hire us to appeal a deportation order. The first thing they say is “I should have hired someone like you before my first hearing.” Be careful out there.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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