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Cannot Miss This One—What Happens When You Do Not Go To Immigration Court

If you have an Immigration Court hearing scheduled, the number one rule is—GO.

So often I sit in court and listen to the clerk call for cases where no one—the Respondent (person in removal proceedings) nor the Attorney shows up for Court.

The law says that if a Respondent does not appear for a hearing, the judge may order the Respondent removed (deported) in absentia. The only reason a person will not be ultimately removed if there is an exceptional circumstance—no less serious than a death in the family, a hospitalization or the hospitalization of a close relative. If the Respondent is in jail—that works too!

It is also important that a Respondent shows up on time. Sometimes there are many people scheduled on a particular day’s court docket, and the Immigration Judge may be on the bench for a few hours. On other days there may only be a few cases scheduled, and the Immigration Judge is only sitting for a half hour, or an hour. If the judge calls your case, and you are not there, he or she will typically trail the matter until the end of the court’s calendar. If you are still there when the judge finishes with the other cases, he or she will ask for the government counsel’s opinion (they always suggest removal) and will enter an Order of Removal. You have just been deported.

If you are removed in absentia, you must immediately file a Motion to Reopen. You may have only one shot at this, so be careful. You should hire an immigration attorney that has experience in this area. Under no circumstances should you even speak with a Notario or immigration services provider. Do not let them steer to an attorney who likely does not care about your case and is just giving kickbacks to the Notario. There are time and numerical limits to Motions to Reopen an Immigration Court case.

One more note: I have recently been told by potential clients that they do not want to hire an attorney for their first Immigration Court hearing, but to wait a few times until the Judge demands that an attorney must appear for any subsequent hearing. This is a bad idea on many levels, but primarily because there are important deadlines, for example the one year filing deadline for an asylum case, that must be met or that particular form of relief may disappear. It is always advisable to have a qualified immigration attorney on your side from the beginning.

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