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General Rules

The Immigration Service (ICE) may start removal proceedings for many different reasons but the two most common are violating status or committing certain crimes.  If ICE wants to start proceedings it will either arrest the person or contact the person and request he/she go to the ICE office.  An attorney should always go to the ICE office in this situation.


Removal Procedures

ICE will issue a charging document called a Notice to Appear or NTA.   The person is provided with the NTA in person or by mail and then ICE files the NTA with the Immigration Judge/Immigration Court (IJ).   The IJ will then set a time and date for the Master Hearing which is the first hearing and the time when it is determined if the NTA is correct.   If the NTA is correct, the IJ will find the person deportable.


Fighting Deportation

Once the IJ finds the person is deportable from the US, there may be ways to prevent the actual deportation.  The three most common ways are filing for asylum, using adjustment status such as through marriage to a US citizen, and Cancellation of Removal.   Cancellation requires the person to be in the US for the past ten years and have a qualifying relative which is a parent, spouse or child who is a US citizen or permanent resident.  If one or more if these, or another form of relief which is less common, is available, the IJ will schedule a second hearing, called the Merit Hearing.  The Merit Hearing is often scheduled many months and sometimes years in the future.   If the IJ denies the relief requested at the Merit Hearing, there is an appeal available in most cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).   That appeal normally takes less than one year to complete.   An appeal to Federal Court is available in very rare cases.



If an NTA is issued to a person, he or she may also be held in jail.  This is very common if a person has been held in jail for a crime.   For this detention, the person can ask ICE to set a bond amount (only cash bonds are allowed) but if ICE will not set a bond amount or it is too high, a bond hearing can be requested from the Immigration Judge (IJ).    An appeal to the BIA is also available.