Facing Deportation? Know Your Rights & Know What To Do

  • It’s many people’s worst nightmare. You – or your loved one – receive a notice to appear in removal proceedings and are threatened with deportation. As I always remind people, the word was changed almost 25 years ago to “removal” by Congress. Then, President Bill Clinton signed the law. But make no mistake.  It is still deportation. Many people panic as soon as they receive their notice, and contemplate going into hiding, or finding a way “get around” deportation. Don’t do either of these things.

    If you are facing deportation keep calm, and follow the recommendations below.

    What do you do when facing deportation?

    1. Do not lose your head. You must stay calm and start to plan a strategy.
    2. Don’t do it alone. If you are already in the place of facing deportation it’s time to get legal help. Call the best immigration lawyer you can.

    The system is the toughest in history. Estimates place deportations at nearly 3 Million under Obama, and Trump  made staying in the country even harder for many peopleThere are about 1.5 million immigrants currently awaiting deportation hearings.

    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, know your rights:

    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 under Trump, there was virtually no prosecutorial discretion (which has reemerged under Biden).  Also those who overstay their ESTAs 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 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.

    We can stop removal / deportation in a number of ways.

    There are many immigrants facing deportation who are eligible for waivers, asylum, and other defenses.

    Almost ten per cent of those facing deportation are in jail.  This number is connected to a Congressionally mandated quota that says a certain number be detained.

    Defending immigrants facing deportation, who are in custody, is a special area of immigration law. 

    Don’t become a statistic.

    In 2012, more than 400,000 immigrants were detained and removed, from more than 250 detention centers in the United States. Former President Obama liked to say that we only remove “gangbangers.” President Trump preferred “bad hombres.”

    However, between 2010 and 2012, the volume of immigrants deported after a serious felony or violent crime decreased from 9.5 to 8.7 percent, according to data provided by Immigration.

    The reality is we see people from more than 100 countries facing deportation. These folks include young children and their parents.

    If you are facing deportation, know that you have the right for legal representation, and get help from a professional now.

    For More Information contact us or Download our Free ebook below for more information.

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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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