Notice to Appear
The removal process is initiated by the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). The DHS serves the a "Notice to Appear" upon the alien ordering the alien to appear for an immigration hearing. The Notice to Appear advises the alien of the nature of the proceedings, the alleged immigration law violations, the privilege of being represented by an attorney, and the consequences of failing to appear at the hearing.
Deportation/removal proceedings begin once the DHS files the Notice to Appear with the Immigration Court. These removal/deportation proceedings may be conducted in person, by video conference, or, in certain circumstances, by telephone conference. It is very important for the alien attend any hearing dates set by the immigration court as the immigration judge may conduct the hearing without the alien present and able to present his or her case. The DHS must prove that the alien is in the United States unlawfully and should be removed. At the hearing, the alien may present evidence supporting his or her case against removal.
During removal proceedings language interpreters will be made available to the alien at the government’s expense if necessary for the aliens to fully understand and participate in the proceedings.
Master Calendar Hearing
The first hearing during removal proceedings will be the master calendar hearing. This hearing date may be stated in the Notice to Appear served on the alien or may be sent to the alien in a separate Notice of Hearing. This hearing must be set at least ten days after service of the Notice of Intent was served on the alien, unless waived by the alien, so that the alien has adequate time to find an attorney and prepare their defenses.
The master calendar hearing deals with preliminary matters, including
- advising the alien of the right to an attorney or other representative at no expense to the government
- advising the alien of the availability of free and low-cost legal service providers and provide the respondent with a list of such providers in the area where the hearing is being conducted
- advising the alien of the right to present evidence, and advise the alien of the right to examine and object to evidence and to cross-examine any witnesses presented by the Department of Homeland Security.
- explaining the charges and factual allegations contained in the Notice to Appear to the alien in non-technical language
- taking pleadings
- identifying and narrowing the factual and legal issues
- setting deadlines for filing applications for relief, briefs, motions, prehearing statements, exhibits, witness lists, and other documents
- providing warnings related to background and security investigations
- scheduling hearings to adjudicate contested matters and applications for relief
- advising the alien of the consequences of failing to appear at subsequent hearings
- advising the alien of the right to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals
At the master calendar hearing the alien should be prepared to
- concede or deny service of the Notice to Appear
- request or waive a formal reading of the Notice to Appear
- request or waive an explanation of the respondent's rights and obligations in removal proceedings
- admit or deny the charges and factual allegations in the Notice to Appear
- designate or decline to designate a country of removal
- state what applications(s) for relief from removal, if any, the respondent intends to file
- identify and narrow the legal and factual issues
- estimate (in hours) the amount of time needed to present the case at the individual calendar hearing
- to request a date on which to file the application(s) for relief, if any, with the Immigration Court
- to request an interpreter for the alien and witnesses, if needed
Individual Calendar Hearings
Evidentiary hearings on contested matters are referred to as individual calendar hearings or merits hearings which may be scheduled at the first hearing. Contested matters include challenges to removability/deportability and applications for relief. At these hearings the alien has the ability to introduce evidence and call witnesses to support any claims for relief they may have. Aliens also have the ability to object to the government’s evidence and cross-examine the government’s witnesses. After the alien and the government have presented their cases, the Immigration Judge will either enter an oral ruling at the conclusion of the hearing or issue a decision at a later date.