Once an applicant has been placed in removal proceedings, the case becomes procedurally more formal and the stakes for the applicant become much higher.
A foreign national can apply for several different forms of relief if they have been placed in removal proceedings for some reason, such as an ICE work raid, or a criminal arrest.
Master Calendar Hearing
As in criminal cases, there are two types of court dates in Immigration Court, one is called Master Calendar and the other is the Individual Hearing. The first court date in the NTA will be for a Master Calendar date. On Master Calendar dates, the IJ deals with administrative issues, including scheduling, filing applications, pleading to the immigration charges, and other issues that arise. There are generally 20-30 cases scheduled during a two hour period for Master Calendar. Most Judges take cases where the respondents are represented by counsel first, and some Judges hear pro bono cases before cases with private attorneys.
Most attorneys in Immigration Court practice there every day, so the IJ and ICE attorney will speak in lingo which may be unfamiliar. It is important to let the Court know if you are working on the case pro bono and if you are not generally an immigration practitioner. If the IJ or ICE attorney says anything that you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. Even if they seem irritated at having to slow the proceedings down, you are responsible for doing anything the IJ or ICE attorney directs you to do, and complying with any deadlines they impose, so it’s imperative that you understand what they tell you.
Immigrants with Criminal Convictions
People convicted of crimes of moral turpitude (includes theft – i.e., shoplifting) are not admissible to the U.S. There is an exception for one petty offense (misdemeanor shoplifting is usually a petty offense but not always). Conviction of an aggravated felony is a deportable offense.
States have given the immigration service many conviction records. Often green card holders with old convictions are stopped upon return to the U.S. from a vacation or business trip and are put in deportation proceedings.
These cases are often very complex. Conviction for what was once a college prank or a marijuana possession charge may now result in deportation for a temporary visa or green card holder. It is thus advisable for people to naturalize, particularly for young people unless one has an arrest or conviction making them ineligible to naturalize.
Any foreign national or permanent resident who is arrested or has a criminal charge or conviction should consult with us before entering a plea; or traveling to Canada, Mexico or overseas; or having any contact with the government, such as applying for naturalization, or renewing a green card.
Reopening Criminal Convictions
Very often criminals plead guilty to criminal matters, but are not made aware of the immigration consequences of their guilty plea. They are then placed in removal proceedings. Under recent changes in the law it may be possible to have the criminal case re-opened through a post-conviction relief filing before the criminal court judge. Our offices are able to aid in this process or we have criminal defense attorneys in other states who may be able to file such post-conviction relief petitions (PCRA) or "corum nobis" petitions.
Deportation without a Conviction
Some people may be found inadmissible or deportable for criminal activity even without a conviction. An arrest for spousal abuse or drug trafficking are examples where one may be put in removal proceedings without a conviction.
At the time of renewing a green card or naturalization, the USCIS will run a criminal record check and one may face deportation for certain criminal activity. Criminal conduct may also bar a person showing good moral character required for naturalization.
Thus, it is extremely important that arrested foreign nationals or green card holders consult with us so that we may work with criminal counsel to analyze any immigration consequences of the arrest, plea, and/or conviction. Ahmad & Associates has considerable experience in this area.