Since 2016, thousands of Cameroonians have fled the country and are seeking asylum in the United States. The reason? A civil war.
As a result of unfair treatment by their Francophone counterparts, in September 2017, separatists from the Anglophone territories of the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, declared their independence. As a result, thousands of Cameroonians have died.
The civil war is the result of years of marginalization of the Anglophones (English Speaking population) by the Francophones (French speaking population). In fact, approximately 80% of the population is composed of Francophones and the remaining 20% is comprised of Anglophones.
Cameroon's government is largely controlled by the Francophones and the Anglophones have felt isolated from the process. Even though turmoil has been going on for a long time, the most recent violence stems from a peaceful protest in Yaounde which was organized by English speaking lawyers and teachers due to the fact that the Francophones were forcing the Anglophones to assimilate into the Francophone legal and educational institutions.
Instead of allowing these protests to continue, the government cracked down by arresting and killing a number of the protestors. This action by the government only served to embolden those Anglophones which were calling for an independent state.
As a result of the growing tension in Cameroon, thousands of Anglophones have had no choice but to flee the country and seek asylum in the United States. Sadly, ever since appearing at the U.S. border, ICE has largely kept these individuals remain detained for months at a time before having an opportunity to bring their case before an immigration judge. Since 2016, a fair number of asylum cases have already been granted and many of these Anglophones are now living as an asylee in the United States.
Attorneys at Liberty Law Group have had an incredible opportunity to represent these individuals in immigration Court and have, so far, won every single asylum case involving a Cameroonian. If your loved one is seeking asylum in the United States and looking for a competent lawyer to represent them in their immigration proceedings, give us a call and let us represent you!
Aggravated felonies often mean the end of the road for anyone trying to obtain a green card in the United States. This doesn't mean, however, that getting one is entirely impossible. Too often when immigration attorneys get cold calls and they learn that the potential client has an aggravated felony on their record, their immediate response is: "sorry, I can't help you." While this may often end up being the case - there are certain situations in which an individual with an aggravated felony might in fact still be eligible for a green card.
The first question to consider is to determine whether you even have a conviction. Sadly, many people who plead "nolo contendere" or no contest to a criminal charge still plead guilty for purposes of immigration law. Additionally, people who enter into pretrial diversion might, in some instances, also unknowingly enter into a conviction for immigration purposes. Under immigration law, the definition of a conviction is:
Assuming, you have a conviction for immigration purposes, the next question is to consider whether your conviction constitutes an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act includes the complete list of what constitutes an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. This list ranges from murder to fraud where the damage to the victim is in excess of $10,000 to theft or burglary offenses where the term of imprisonment is at least one year.
The moment an individual is convicted of an aggravated felony, that individual (who is not a U.S. citizen) can almost certainly expect Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer to come pick you up and put you in removal proceedings. If you already have a green card, you might be eligible to re-apply for your green card or "re-adjust" your status in the United States. If you do not have a green card yet, but are otherwise eligible for adjustment of status (meaning you entered the United States while being inspected or admitted and subsequently have a U.S. citizen immediate relative) then you can apply for adjustment of status while in removal proceedings, while at the same time seeking a waiver for your conviction.
The good news is that an aggravated felony is not a per se bar to admissibility in the United States, but the conviction might constitute another ground of inadmissibility other than an aggravated felony. Most often, a conviction of an aggravated felony also constitutes a conviction involving moral turpitude which is a ground of inadmissibility.
Ultimately, determining whether you can obtain a green card with an aggravated felony conviction involves a lot of thorough research, which many immigration attorneys are not even able to do. If you need help determining whether your particular conviction may bar you from obtaining a green card, call Louisiana immigration lawyers at Liberty Law Group for a free consultation. Allow our vast experience to guide you through the various legal landmines that might be out there. Louisiana immigration attorneys have spent years practicing and teaching immigration law.
There is no question that every segment of society has been effected by Covid-19. Sadly, the most vulnerable populations are not receiving much needed attention and, as a result, the plight of many individuals is being ignored. One such population are immigrants which are detained and in removal proceedings in immigration courts across the country.
In March of 2020, and in response to the Covid outbreak, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (a part of the Department of Justice which oversees all removal proceedings in the United States) essentially shut down all non-detained cases through the end of May 2020. All detained hearings were supposed to go on as usual. Despite no official closure by EOIR, many immigration judges handling the detained docket have made personal decisions either not to go to work or to cancel all of their hearings. In addition to this, any time an individual appears in a detained courtroom and there is even the slightest possibility that this individual was around infected people, the courts will completely shut down. The result of these actions is that most detained cases have also come to a standstill.
Despite the fact that our office handles a majority of detained cases, we have seen hearing after hearing after hearing cancelled and rescheduled for a much later date. This is not the case for every immigration judge, as some judges remain faithful to move their cases forward to the best of their ability and within the limits allowed by EOIR.
Making matters worse, the Covid outbreak has finally reached these detention centers and infecting many individuals. As of the present date, ICE has 606 confirmed cases of detained individuals that have tested positive. Given the close proximity that detained individuals are at these detention centers, the number of cases will continue to spread rapidly. In fact, in Richwood Correctional Center alone, there are already 61 detainees that have tested positive.
The sad reality is that from the beginning, ICE has not done much at all to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the concerns of the healthcare workers working to serve the detained immigrant population. ICE continues to transfer thousands of individuals in and out of these facilities causing even greater risk for causing an outbreak at these detention centers.
To make matters even worse, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the very organization whose mission it is to protect the vulnerable immigrant population, has filed a motion for temporary restraining order with the United States District Court for the District of Oregon asking to shut down all detained hearings.
As a result of all of these events, what we have is tens of thousands of individuals who remain in close proximity to individuals who have been infected with the virus and do not have the ability of being released since their cases have all stalled and ICE isnt' granting requests for parole. Case in point, Liberty Law Group has a specific client that suffers from both asthma and diabetes for whom we made a parole request, which has not even received a response from ICE. There are thousands of other non-violent immigrant detainees who suffer from underlying conditions and extremely susceiptible to death from Covid-19, but ICE refuses to release them as well.
What can be done about this? While Covid-19 presents a complicated problem, the solution is easy. First and foremost, all immigrant detainees who suffer underlying conditions and don't have a criminal history evidencing violence against persons should be given supervised release. Second, ICE should put a hold on intra-facility transfers so that individuals from outside these facilities don't bring Covid-19 with them into these facilities. Finally, EOIR should do everything possible to keep the detained docket moving so that the individuals who will not be released will have their day in court and not linger in these detention centers month after month.
Louisiana immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group have clients scattered in detention centers all throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. If you have a loved one in detention and in need of assistance, call us today for a free consultation. Even if you ultimately choose not to retain us, we can still lead you in the right direction.
Despite years of public education urging people not to drink and drive, there are far too many people in our society who continue to put themselves and others at risk when they get behind the wheel after consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol. In many cases, past convictions and interventions from friends and family fail to curb this practice. Drunk driving is responsible for a third of all road deaths in the United States.
For years, the legal blood alcohol limit to operate a motor vehicle has been 0.08% for drivers of personal vehicles. Drivers of commercial vehicles, however, have a lower limit that depends on the state. Because any amount of alcohol can negatively affect the ability to operate a motorized vehicle in a safe manner, all states also have “catch-all” provisions which allow drivers to be charged with DUI if they are impaired by alcohol, even if they are technically below the legal limit. There is no excuse for putting innocent lives at risk by driving after consuming alcohol.
On certain days of the year such as New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s Day, police often employ checkpoints to screen for drunk drivers on the roads. Unfortunately, the threat of arrest is not always enough to convince addicts to give up their keys. If you are driving and notice erratic behavior with fellow drivers, you should alert the police immediately. Signs to watch out for include vehicles that cross medians or swerve between lanes, constant slamming on brakes, and cars traveling the wrong direction on ramps or two-lane roads. These all could be warning signs that the driver is impaired by alcohol or other intoxicants.
Passengers who knowingly get into a car with an intoxicated driver are risking their own lives and are often giving up any opportunity they might have for recovery. Louisiana employs a legal standard called comparative negligence, meaning that if you get into the car with a drunk driver, your ability to bring a claim is decreased on the basis of your own culpability. You may think that you are doing the right thing by giving up your own keys, but getting into a vehicle with a drunk driver is every bit as dangerous as driving drunk yourself.
Because drunk driving accidents are so dangerous, victims of a drunk driver often face increased pressure to settle from insurance companies. If the drunk driver’s auto insurance calls you in the days immediately following an accident, they may make promises or offer to cover all your medical expenses if you sign a release right away. Never accept anything from an insurance company until you have spoken to an Alexandria, Louisiana drunk driving accident lawyer, or you could lose your chance to get the recovery you deserve. Attorney Chris Roy understands the challenges of dealing with insurance companies after devastating accidents and will give you the advice you need to make an informed, intelligent decision about your case. Don’t leave your case to chance.
The South Louisiana Correctional Center is Louisiana's newest ICE processing center. Located in Basile, Louisiana, this correctional center is approximately an hour away from Lafayette, Louisiana and an hour and a half away from Alexandria, Louisiana.
Just like the other ICE processing centers in Louisiana, the South Louisiana Correctional Center is located in rural Louisiana, far away from any immigration attorneys. Just like the LaSalle ICE Processing Center and the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, the South Louisiana Correctional center is run by a government contractor that has contracts with many Department of Homeland Security Facilities across the country - the GEO Group. As such, this facility has very strict rules for visitors. For example, family and friend visitations must be scheduled in advance, any individual visiting the facility must bring proof of identification and no electronic devices may be brought into the facility, even for immigration attorneys.
When you first enter the South Louisiana Correctional Center, you will have to go through security and give the employees your driver's license. Just like the other GEO facilities, you will probably have to wait a significant amount of time before meeting with your friend or family member, even if you schedule your meeting in advance as employees from the South Louisiana Correctional Center and other GEO facilities have a policy of not having the family members waiting in the meeting room at the time requested - they will have to go and locate them once you enter the facility and tell them who you want to meet. Even worse, if they are doing count (confirming that all of the detainees are present and accounted for), you will have to wait until count is over, which could easily last for an extra hour.
The meeting room itself is a bare bones room with plastic chairs for people inside the room to sit in. Meetings may not last longer than two hours.
The South Louisiana Correctional Center is a female only facility, and has females from countries throughout the world, from Central and South America to China. The majority of detainees at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, are recent arrivals, but many of them have lived in the United States for many years.
Presently, the immigration court in San Juan, Puerto Rico has administrative control over detainees housed at the South Louisiana Correctional Center. This means that at the hearings, the judge will appear by video teleconference. In fact, the DHS ICE attorneys will also be appearing in Puerto Rico via televideo conference. This means that the detainees must either mail all of their filings directly to Puerto Rico, or fax file the papers with the immigration court (a privilege which has been given to the detainees who might not have any other means to file paperwork with the immigration court).
Unlike many other detention centers in Louisiana, the judges assigned to detainees at the South Louisiana Correctional Center are extremely fair and will give your loved one a fair chance to either obtain bond or win their case. Obviously, this depends upon a lot of factors relating to the strength and weakness of each case, the connections between the detainee and the United States, the number of family members the detainees have in the United States, the detainee's criminal history and a host of other relevant factors.
If you are coming from a long distance to visit a loved one at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, it is advisable for you to stay in Lafayette, Louisiana as this city has nice hotels and restaurants. It is easy to rent a car from Lafayette to Basile, Louisiana.
If you are visiting Louisiana for the first time while visiting a loved one at the South Louisiana Correctional Center and want to make the most out of your trip, make sure to see Mamou. Mamou, a town of fewer than 5,000 people, is located in the heart of Cajun Country and considers itself the Cajun Capital of the World. Make sure to go visit Fred's Lounge -a local bar with incredible Cajun music, depending upon the day of the week of course (Saturday
If you are searching for an immigration attorney to represent a friend or family member at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, here is why you should an immigration attorney at Liberty Law Group:
Lasalle Detention Facility is located in Jena, Louisiana. Jena lies in the heart of central Louisiana approximately 4 hours north of New Orleans and two and a half hours north of Lafayette. Unfortunately for the immigrants detained at the Lasalle Detention Facility, there are not any experienced immigration attorneys located in Jena, Louisiana. The closest law office to Jena, Louisiana is located in Alexandria, Louisiana where several immigration attorneys provide services to immigrants located at the Lasalle Detention Facility, including immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group. Alexandria, Louisiana is located only one hour south of the Lasalle Detention Facility (also known as the Lasalle ICE Processing Center).
Located in the same facility to the Lasalle Detention Facility is the Lasalle Immigration Court. Interestingly, Lasalle Detention Facility is one of only two facilities (out of about ten or so different detention centers in the state) where the immigrants sit in the same courtroom as the immigration judges who are adjudicating their case. There are approximately five immigration judges who oversee cases at the Lasalle Immigration Court, but out of the five, only three immigration judges actually hear cases for detainees who are housed at the Lasalle Detention Facility - Judge Fuller, Judge Munson and Judge Thogerson. The other two immigration judges adjudicate cases by video telephone conference at other immigration detention centers in the state of Louisiana.
When hiring an immigration attorney to represent immigrants at the Lasalle Detention Facility, it is important to know how each of these judges rule, what kind of evidence they want at the hearing, and how the attorneys are supposed to conduct themselves in the courtroom. Fortunately, immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group have substantial experience with each of these judges - in fact they have been practicing immigration law at this immigration court even before these immigration judges were appointed.
Immigrants housed at the Lasalle Detention Facility not only come from Louisiana, but from the entire country. Over the last several years, the Lasalle Detention Facility has also received thousands of arriving aliens who have recently arrived in the country from the U.S. Mexico border. In a certain sense, the Lasalle Detention Facility has become an immigration hub for ICE to send individuals who are in removal proceedings.
Before President Trump took office, the Lasalle Detention Facility only served as a housing facility and there was no immigration court. The immigrants at this facility were seen by immigration judges in Oakdale, Louisiana - approximately an hour and a half away. This process didn't work well since immigration judges at the Oakdale Immigration Court were also overseeing cases for immigrants detained at the Pine Prairie Detention Facility.
When President Trump first took office, there were no permanent immigration judges assigned to the Lasalle Immigration Court, so the Department of Homeland Security had to assign other judges from all over the country who mostly appeared by video telephone conference. For a period of about a year, several immigration judges in Miami, Florida were responsible for handling the case load for immigrants housed at the Lasalle Detention Facility. In fact, the permanent immigration judges who are now assigned to the Lasalle Immigration Court have only been at this position for about two years.
The Lasalle Detention Facility has been the one constant thing in a state full of changes made by ICE, with new facilities being added seemingly every month, the Lasalle Detention Facility has remained. If a new administration takes over in the coming years, many of these other immigration centers may close, but the Lasalle Detention Facility will most likely remain open, for many years to come.
While there are many immigration attorneys to choose from who take cases at the Lasalle Immigration Court, it is important to find the right one. Immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group regularly visit clients at the Lasalle Detention Facility. We offer free consultations, even many times traveling to meet with potential clients at the Lasalle Detention Facility before charging any fees. If you do decide to retain our services, we will be upfront about our fees and explain the process to you, from beginning to end.
Just a few months ago, ICE recently opened up a new detention facility located at Adam's County Correctional Center in Natchez, Mississippi. This facility is run and operated by CoreCivic, one of many federal independent contractors which contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house thousands of inmates. This particular facility houses approximately 2,200 detainees. In total, there are approximately 425 CoreCivic employees that are in charge of running this particular facility.
If you have a friend or family member that is being detained at this facility, you can visit them by traveling to the following address: 20 Hobo Fork Road, Natchez, Mississippi 39120. While immigrant detainees at this facility are not allowed to make outgoing calls, you can call and leave a message for them to call you back at (601) 304-3003. However, they must have money deposited into their account before they are allowed to make outgoing calls. Click the link HERE for instructions on how to deposit money into your loved one's account.
If you want to visit your friend or family member at the Adams County Correctional Center, you must make sure to schedule a visit during the hours of visitation. Most federal contractors are extremely particular about this rule and if you either fail to schedule a visit or show up during non-visiting hours, you will likely be turned away...even if you have traveled from long distances to arrive at the Adams County Correctional Center. Hours of visitation for this facility differ depending upon the security level of the individual being visited. If your friend or family member is a low security male, you can visit them from Friday through Monday in certain hours. Click on the link HERE in order to find the exact visitation hours for your particular friend or family member. There are no vistitation hours between Monday and Wednesday so if you show up on any of these days you can expect to be turned away. Also, make sure to bring with you government issued identity card such as a driver's license, green card or passport in order to enter the facility. You also must be the age of 18 or older to visit this facility, so if you plan on visiting this facility, don't bring any minors with you. You also are not allowed to bring any cell phones or other electronic devices such as an Apple Watch with you into the facility.
The wesbite at this facility states that if you have a loved one here and need more information from the immigration court, you can call them at 1800-898-7180. If you call this number, you will only reach an automated voice response that only gives you very general information about your loved one's case such as time and date of your loved one's next hearing. If you want more specific information about your loved one's case, you should contact the immigration court directly.
There are no immigration judges at the Adams County Correctional Center. The immigration court in charge of conducting hearings at the Adams County Correctional Center is located in New York City, New York. More specifically, the immigration court at 201 Varick Street, 5th Floor, Room 507, New York, NY 10014 is in charge of conducting hearings. Any documents that are filed by the immigrant in detention proceedings must be directly filed at this address. DO NOT SEND ANY DOCUMENTS YOU INTEND TO FILE DIRECTLY TO THE ADAMS COUNTY CORRECTIONAL CENTER AS THEY WILL NOT ACCEPT THESE DOCUMENTS. If you have any questions about this, you are encouraged to call the Varick Street Immigration Court directly at (646) 638-5766.
Any documents filed with the Varick Street Immigration Court must also be served upon the attorneys working for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ICE service address is 201 Varick Street, Room 1130, New York, NY 10014. YOU MUST INCLUDE A SEPERATE CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE WITH THIS ADDRESS FOR ANY DOCUMENTS FILED WITH THE VARICK STREET IMMIGRATION COURT.
Fortunately, immigration attorneys at the Adams County Correctional Center are allowed to visit their clients 7 days a week so if you have an emergency and need to find someone, give immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group a call and we would be more than happy to provide assistance to you as we have many clients located at this facility and we are only a short drive away.
Additionally, immigration lawyers at Liberty Law Group have experience with the Varick Street Immigration Court immigration judges. Overall, these judges are extremely fair and will give you a reasonable bond if you properly prepare your bond application and meet enough of the bond factors in order for the immigration judge to exercise its discretion to grant bond.
Natchez, Mississippi is known as a vacation destination for many tourists wanting to experience the old south so if you happen to visit this facility, you will have plenty of dining and lodging options available to you. According to www.vacationidea.com below is a list of the top 20 things to do and see while in Natchez, Mississippi:
As you can clearly see, there is a lot to see in do while visiting your loved one who is detained at the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Mississippi. If you want to give your loved one the very best chance for obtaining bond or winning their case in immigration court, please contact immigration lawyers at Liberty Law Group and we will walk with you through every step of the process.
On November 19, 2019, the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security published a joint interim final rule pertaining to aliens who are subject to at least one of the Asylum Cooperative Agreements that the United States has entered pursuant to Section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
What are these Asylum Cooperative Agreements? Found within the Immigration and Nationality Act, is a seldom used rule that allows the United States to deny asylum to an individual who can be sent to a "Safe Third Country." This law allows the United States to remove an asylum seeker to another country with which the United States has entered into such an agreement. This third country would then determine whether this individual merits protection under its asylum laws.
Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, in order to remove an asylum seeker to a safe third country, the United States has to prove that (1) the person would not be persecuted in that third country; and (2) that third country can provide a "full and fair" procedure to request asylum.
Prior to the present administration taking office, the only Safe Third Country agreement was entered into between the United States and Canada and this agreement only applies to individuals who pass through Canada to enter the United States and who pass through the United States to enter Canada. This agreement does, however, allow individuals who pass through Canada to apply for asylum in the United States if the person passing through has a family member so long as the family member has legal status in the United States or is applying for asylum.
Ever since President Trump came into office, the United States has since entered into Safe Third Country agreements with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These agreements contain none of the exceptions provided for in the Safe Third Country agreement between the United States and Canada. Also, these agreements do not contain any provision that the agreement only applies to persons passing through these countries. In essence, what this means is that if an individual passes through Mexico to apply for asylum in the United States, that person might be removed to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala pursuant to these agreements. These rules technically could also apply to individuals from Mexico seeking asylum in the United States. What this means in real terms is that the United States could send any asylum seeker to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and make them apply for asylum in one of those countries.
With this context in mind, let's go back and take a look at the new joint interim rule the United States Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security just published. First, and foremost this rule only applies to aliens who arrive at a United States Port of Entry or enter or attempt to enter the United States ports of entry, on or after November 19, 2019.
Second, this rule clearly states that it only applies to aliens who are subject to these Safe Third Country agreements. The next question then becomes who exactly is subject to these agreements? Most news agencies believe that only those people who first pass through either Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador are the ones subject to these agreements, but a careful review of the text of these agreements does not appear to support this position. In fact the text of the agreements only states who is not subject to the agreement, not who is subject to the agreement. For example, the Asylum Cooperative Agreement between the United States and Guatemala only states that it does not apply to citizens or nationals of Guatemala - it does not state who it applies to. This is an issue that will need significant clarification as this program moves forward.
Third, aliens who are subject to these agreements will have an opportunity to establish that it would be "more likely than not" that the alien's life or freedom would be threatened in the third country on account of a protected ground or that the alien would be tortured in the third country." Essentially, if the alien proves that they would be harmed in the third country in which they are being sent, they will be able to seek asylum in the United States. This "more likely than not" burden of proof is absurd and is way more difficult to prove than the asylum burden of proof where the alien must only show a "credible fear of persecution." Supporting such a heavy burden of proof often requires significant documentation and much preparation. The problem is that this burden of proof is being determined by asylum officers at the border immediately upon entry by the alien into the United States - by the time the alien goes through the first screening step, they will not have sufficient time to prepare their case and bring such evidence in order to meet this heavy burden. As a result, this makes it almost impossible for an alien to meet this exception.
Additionally, prior to implementation of this rule the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security are required to "make a generalized determination as to whether the third country grants asylum seekers access to a full and fair procedure." This is a joke. None of these "Safe Third Countries" have the resources to provide a "full and fair procedure."
If an asylum officer determines that an alien is not subject to an Asylum Cooperative Agreement, that the alien falls within an exception to each applicable Asylum Cooperative Agreement, or that the alien would more likely than not be persecuted on account of a protected ground, or tortured in each of the prospective receiving countries, then the alien is eligible to apply for asylum, withholding of removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture in the United States. If the alien doesn't meet one of these three requirements then the alien is not eligible to apply for asylum, withholding of removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture - this differs greatly from the previous third country asylum rule which still allowed individuals passing through third countries to apply for either withholding of removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture.
It is critical to point out that an immigration judge does not have jurisdiction to review an asylum officer's determination of whether this provision applies to a certain alien. Additionally, it is important to note that a federal immigration officer recently told a reporter from Reuters that aliens in this screening process are not allowed access to an attorney.
Finally, it is also important to point out that this new law will not apply to the following individuals: (1) unaccompanied children; (2) migrants with valid U.S. travel documents; (3) cases of public interest; and (4) separation of spouses and families.
This new rule is not surprising and is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine the asylum laws in the United States and put asylum seekers in harms way be sending them to countries with some of the highest murder rates in the world.
If you are concerned a friend or relative will be placed in this new program, you are welcome to contact Louisiana immigration lawyers at Liberty Law Group and we will be more than happy to provide you with a free consultation regarding this issue.
Many people cannot afford to pay for an immigration attorney to represent them in their case, so for many individuals, their only option is to do it alone. While this is not recommended, it certainly is possible to win your case without an immigration attorney. But before proceeding on your own, you should at least ask an immigration attorney to review your case to explain the steps to you. Louisiana immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group provide consultations free of charge as a service to our community – if you cannot afford our services then at least give us a call and let us take you through the steps and explain the process to you.
You should also consider speaking with legal service providers like Southern Poverty Law Center or Catholic Charities – these non-profit organizations provide pro bono services to immigrants in immigration removal proceedings all over the countries. Some of these organizations don’t just accept everyone that walks through their door, so if they don’t take your case, your only option at that point is to either pay big money for an immigration attorney (often times the cost can exceed $10,000) or go at it alone.
While we hope you choose Liberty Law Group as your legal immigration service provider in Louisiana, we understand this may not be an option for you. As a result, we are providing you with this article so that you will know what to expect at your next immigration hearing.
All immigration proceedings start with service by an ICE officer of a Notice to Appear. A sample Notice to Appear can be found at the following link: https://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/resource/Track_I_Sample_NTA.pdf.
Several comments can be made about the notice to appear. First and most importantly, if it is in fact a notice to appear that you have been given, the first page of the document will actually say “Notice to Appear” in bold in the upper right hand corner of the document. If it does not have these words, it is probably some other type of document. The Notice to Appear puts forth in numbered paragraphs the allegations by DHS against you – essentially these are pleadings which tell the immigration judge why you should be deported and sent back to your home country. Before you attend your first immigration court hearing, you should make sure to read each of these allegations very carefully. Very often times these allegations are not disputed and the immigrant will simply admit to each of these allegations at the first hearing. BUT, this may not always be the case. If you believe that any or all of these allegations are in error, then it is your job to deny these allegations at your first master calendar hearing and force the DHS prosecuting attorney to prove the allegations against you.
In addition to citing the factual allegations against you as to why you should be deported from the United States, at the bottom of the Notice to Appear you will find a reference to the legal statute which the government is relying upon to deport you. Understanding this statute and how it relates to your case can often times be the most difficult part of your case, especially if you are a permanent resident being deported as a result of pleading guilty to some crime. Often times immigration attorneys even have a difficult time understanding these removal statues and how they relate to crimes. Inexperienced immigration attorneys often give bad advice on these extremely complicated legal issues.
If you choose to contest DHS’s factual and legal allegations against you, the immigration judge usually decides the matter in one of two ways: (1) they will require the government to prove its case at the very first master calendar hearing; or (2) the immigration judge will set a new court date for what is known as a “contested master calendar hearing.” Often times, immigration judges will choose the second option because most immigration judges in the United States are pro DHS and will give DHS every opportunity possible to prove their case against you. DHS will use this time to gather documents supporting removal such as certified copies of conviction records, I-213s and other legal documents.
It is often difficult to predict exactly how many hearings you will have in immigration court – it is different for everyone. For some of our clients, we might have 5 or 6 total hearings, for other clients it may be as low as two hearings. Generally though, here is a description of the immigration court hearings you will have and what to expect at each hearing;
1. First master calendar hearing – see above. You should show up to court prepared to admit or deny the government’s allegations against you. If you have not had time yet to consult with an immigration attorney prior to your first master calendar hearing, you should ask the judge for one continuance in order to find an attorney. It is fairly standard for an immigration judge to grant a least one continuance and it will most likely be granted if you request it.
2. Second master calendar hearing – This may be a contested master calendar hearing if you deny the government’s allegations. If you admit to the government’s allegations, this will be the hearing where you will submit the application for whatever relief you are eligible for. This is also why it is important to consult with an immigration attorney before your first court date, because it is often difficult to know what relief you might be eligible for if you don’t speak with an attorney. In immigration proceedings, there are a variety of ways to remain in the United States even if the government proves that you should be deported. Here is a non-exclusive list: (1) asylum – you fear returning to your country because you believe you will be persecuted on account of your membership in certain groups; (2) cancellation of removal – you have lived in the United States more than ten years, don’t have any disqualifying convictions, prove that you have good moral character, have a relationship to a US citizen spouse, parent or child and prove that your removal to your country would result in extreme hardship to your US citizen family member; (3) readjustment of status – if you were a green card holder and found removable, under certain limited circumstances you may be eligible to re-apply for your green card by submitting an adjustment of status application along with a waiver for whatever ground of inadmissibility you have; (4) T visa – you were a victim of human trafficking and would like to use the T visa to waive your illegal presence in the United States; (5) U visa – you were the victim of a crime in the United States and would like to use the U visa to waive your illegal presence in the United States; (6) voluntary departure – you do not qualify for any other form of relief and want to make sure that the 5 or 10 year bar for being deported doesn’t prevent you from returning with that period of time so you might be eligible to ask the judge to grant you voluntary departure.
3.Merits hearing: You have already submitted your application and at the second master calendar hearing, the judge selects a date for your merits hearing. This is essentially your trial where you are given the opportunity to present documents and witnesses to support your case. You or your attorney will have an opportunity to ask relevant questions to both yourself and each witness you choose to use, the DHS prosecuting attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine both yourself and any witness you choose to use and the immigration judge also will probably have quite a few questions to ask you.
If the immigration judge denies your case, you will have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia. The Board of Immigration Appeals will either affirm the decision of the immigration judge, overturn the decision and grant the relief you requested or remand the case back to the immigrant judge for further proceedings.
The time between the first and last hearing depends on two primary factors: (1) the location of the hearing; and (2) whether you are in detained or non-detained proceedings. Given the nature of the case and the fact that the immigrant is in detention during the pendency of the case, detained proceedings move must faster than non-detained cases and usually won’t take more than 3-4 months at the most. Non-detained cases can take years given the fact that the immigration court system is seriously backlogged with cases.
If you don’t have the finances to pay for an immigration attorney or if a non-profit organization chooses not to accept your case, if you are determined enough, you certainly can represent yourself in your immigration case, but it will take a LOT of work and preparation in order to give yourself the best possible chance for winning. That said, please call us and let us at least work with you in preparing your case – we can give you the roadmap for success, even if you choose not to ultimately retain us.