Immigration Court 101: Hearing Types
If you have a case before an immigration court, and have already received a “Notice to Appear,” you are considered to be “in removal proceedings.” This means that legal proceedings have been initiated against you for the purpose of determining if you will ultimately be removed, or “deported,” from the United States. Most individuals in standard, non-expedited removal proceedings will have two or more hearing dates. The first hearing, which individuals typically find out about after they are served with a Notice to Appear, is referred to as a “Master Calendar” hearing” or just “Master” hearing. Master calendar hearings are typically very short, administrative hearings where you may be in the courtroom (or on the phone, if the hearing is being held telephonically) with other individuals who also have master hearings that day. Master hearings are where you, or, ideally, your attorney, will respond to the allegations made against you in the Notice to Appear, identify the applications or defenses that you are pursuing, designate a country that you would like to be removed to if the judge orders you to be removed, and schedule additional hearings and deadlines. Many people attend their first Master hearing and request more time to obtain an attorney or prepare an application for relief, however, the judge does not have to grant such a request.
It is not uncommon for people to have multiple Master hearings before being scheduled for what is referred to as an “individual merits” hearing or just “individual” hearing. An individual hearing is where your case will be presented in full. It is typically multiple hours long and, unlike the Master, is a time set aside for only your case. This hearing is where your attorney will call witnesses, including you, to testify, present evidence, and make legal arguments as to why you should not be removed or why you are eligible for relief from removal. After this hearing, the judge will make a decision in your case. Sometimes the judge will announce that decision at the end of the hearing, but other times they will also issue a written decision after the hearing concludes.
If you have received a Notice to Appear or are already in immigration proceedings, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately. Unlike in criminal courts, one will not be provided to you. There may be defenses available to you!
The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can assist you or your loved ones in the process of defending against deportation. We are experienced in representing clients before the U.S. Immigration Courts. Please contact our office at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.