Many people in Florida live in fear of deportation. If ICE has detained you or a loved one and you worry the government may deport you, this can be a very scary time for your family. In order to prepare for the road ahead, you need to understand what happens during a removal proceeding. Here are five things you should know:
- Notice to Appear. ICE gives a Notice to Appear to anyone they think may be in the country illegally. The notice will give you a date for your appearance before an immigration judge, and state the reasons they think the judge should deport you. If you have been arrested, ICE may decide to detain you during this time. They may also decide to let you out on bond, depending on the circumstances.
- Voluntary Departure. Some people choose to leave on their own. In very limited situations, someone can volunteer to leave and the U.S. will allow them back in the country later if they have a legal means to return.
- What to expect at your first hearing. Your first hearing, called a master calendar hearing, may be your most important hearing. If the judge finds enough evidence to deport you at this hearing, you may not receive another. Therefore, you should offer a defense to deportation.
- What to expect from the trial phase/individual hearing. The next time you appear in court will be during the individual hearing. The individual hearing allows you to argue and present evidence to the judge that he or she should allow you to stay in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security represents the government at trial and must prove by clear and convincing evidence that you should be removed.
- The judge’s decision. The judge decides your case based on the merits and could sign an Order of Removal the same day as your individual hearing, or send the decision in the mail.
Be aware that you can appeal the judge’s decision if he or she finds against you, but you have a limited amount of time to do so. Strong legal representation can help navigate the removal proceeding. Remember that you do have rights and options in this situation.