If you are an immigrant in the U.S. and you are at risk for removal (commonly called “deportation”), you must have the assistance of an experienced immigration appeals attorney, and you must obtain that help as soon as you know that you are at risk.

In recent years, the number of immigrants removed from the United States has been steadily increasing. Any immigrant with previous immigration-related charges or with any serious criminal charges may need an attorney’s help to remain in the United States.

Those who have families, homes, and jobs in the U.S. will have a better chance of beating deportation, but they will also need an immigration lawyer’s help.

HOW DOES THE REMOVAL PROCESS WORK?

Here’s how removal from the United States works and what you’ll need to do if you are at risk for removal:

1. You’ll receive a Notice to Appear.
2. You’ll need to consult an immigration lawyer.
3. You’ll need to learn more about how immigration law applies to your own case.

If you are targeted for possible removal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you will receive a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court. It should indicate the date, time, and location of your removal hearing.

WHAT IF THE GOVERNMENT’S ALLEGATIONS AGAINST YOU ARE FALSE?

Read the NTA carefully to determine what legal grounds are being cited as a reason for your removal. DHS makes mistakes like anyone else, so the charges against you may be false.

In fact, arguing that the government is in error is a frequently-offered defense against removal.

If you are wrongly accused of committing a crime that you did not commit, for example, a good immigration lawyer should be able to help you disprove the allegation.

Something as simple as confusing two people who have the same name could put you at risk for removal for no good reason, but you’ll need an immigration attorney to straighten out that kind of confusion on your behalf.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP YOU?

You must be represented by an attorney with abundant immigration experience. Immigration law in the United States is some of the most complicated law in the world, and it’s always changing.

A qualified immigration attorney will explain and protect your rights and will fight vigorously for justice on your behalf. If you should not be removed from the United States, your lawyer will make that clear to the Immigration Court at your removal hearing.

WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER OPTIONS FOR FIGHTING REMOVAL?

Most immigrants facing removal will have several defense options, and your attorney will pursue the best of those options:

1. For example, if one or both of your parents, your spouse, or your child is a legal citizen of the United States, you may apply for a visa based on your relationship with that relative.

2. If you’ve lived in the U.S. for a decade or longer and you have a spouse, children, or other close relatives here, you may qualify for the cancellation of removal if you can demonstrate that a family member will suffer an exceptional hardship if you are removed.

3. You may qualify for asylum. If you have suffered – or if you fear – persecution in your home nation based on religion, race, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a particular group, you may seek asylum. If approved, you will be eligible for a green card.

4. Withholding of removal is comparable to asylum, except that it is considered temporary, and it does not qualify you for a green card.

5. Your attorney can ask the prosecutor to use “prosecutorial discretion” and simply drop the possibility of removal. Typically, only those immigrants with no criminal record will be the beneficiaries of prosecutorial discretion.

WHAT IF YOU ARE ALREADY A GREEN CARD HOLDER?

If you are already a lawful permanent resident in the United States – a green card holder – and you are facing possible deportation, your defense options may be slightly different.

You may, for example, qualify for cancellation of removal if you have resided continually in the U.S. for a minimum of seven years (with at least five years as a lawful permanent resident) and you do not have a conviction for an aggravated felony.

WHAT IS VOLUNTARY DEPARTURE?

If your attorney has reviewed your case and has concluded that the evidence against you is strong – and that your removal is probably inevitable – your attorney may recommend “voluntary departure.”

Voluntary departure is not granted automatically, but if approved, you will be allowed to exit the United States voluntarily, and deportation will not appear on your immigration record.

As mentioned previously, immigration law in the U.S. is exceedingly complicated, and if you are facing deportation, you’ll need to make a number of important choices. You’ll need some help.

WHY IS IT CRITICAL TO HAVE YOUR OWN ATTORNEY?

You’ll need a lawyer with substantial immigration experience to review your case and recommend the most effective way to fight a possible removal.

The statistics are undeniable. Immigrants facing removal are considerably more likely to prevail at a removal hearing if they are represented by an immigration lawyer.

No public defender is provided in a removal hearing. If you have received a Notice to Appear, you must reach out and contact an immigration attorney on your own and at once.

Depending on the specifics of your case, you and your immigration lawyer will discuss precisely how to proceed.

Trust your lawyer’s experience and judgment. Your lawyer routinely deals with immigration matters and knows what it takes to represent you effectively.

HOW CAN YOU PROVE THAT YOU SHOULD REMAIN IN THE U.S.?

You’ll need some evidence that the allegations against you are false – or that even if they are true, you should be allowed to stay in the United States. That evidence could take many forms: official documents, other medical and legal papers, witness statements, and photos or videos.

Your immigration attorney will know what evidence is needed and how to obtain it.

The threat of removal is real. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed approximately 226,000 people from the United States in the 2017 fiscal year, which ran from October 2016 through September 2017.

Still, there is no reason to believe that receiving a Notice to Appear means that you will be deported, but if you receive a Notice to Appear, you must get a trustworthy immigration lawyer’s help at once. In the United States, that is your right.