We defend immigrants facing deportation from the United States for unlawful presence, criminal convictions, or other reasons, at the administrative, trial and appellate levels. Our lawyers have a strong reputation for effective and compassionate deportation defense litigation.
Both documented and undocumented immigrants can be charged with deportability from the United States. An immigrant may be asked to voluntarily depart the United States–admitting he or she is present in violation of law. The same form permits the immigrant to request a hearing before an Immigration Judge to determine if he or she can remain in the United States. Immigrants who do not request a hearing may be giving up important legal rights, such as the possibility of gaining legal status. Immigrants who fail to attend their deportation hearing will probably be deported in their absence and later arrested by DHS.
An Immigration Judge is an administrative judge employed by the U.S. Department of Justice to review the actions of the Department of Homeland Security relating to deportation. The law recognizes that deportation is a drastic action that can result in the loss of “all that makes life worth living.” For that reason, immigrant have many rights the government is obligated to respect.
An important right is the requirement that DHS prove through clear and convincing evidence that the immigrant is deportable. Sometimes that is easy–for example where an immigrant is arrested with a foreign passport showing a period of stay has expired. In other cases, such as in a complicated criminal deportation case involving a green card holder, DHS might not be able to prove deportability.
Even if the judge determines that the immigrant is deportable, defenses are available. Once DHS charges an immigrant with deportability, the Immigration Judge has jurisdiction over most applications by him or her for immigration status. The judge may under certain circumstances decline to order deportation and instead confer lawful permanent resident (green card) status on the deportable immigrant. During the course of the court proceedings, many immigrants are eligible to receive work permits (and consequently social security numbers and driver licenses) based on their pending application for lawful status. The Immigration Judge’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, another administrative court near Washington, D.C. An appeal is a request that a higher court correct the errors committed by a trial court. In general, appeals are conducted completely in writing. The reviewing judge or judges looks at the documentary evidence submitted in the case, a transcript of testimony, and the judge’s decision. Both sides of the case have the opportunity to submit legal argument in writing to explain why they feel the decision was correctly, or incorrectly, decided. In a very small number of cases, the judges may ask the attorneys to appear before them in person to answer more questions.
If the Board of Immigration Appeals sides with an immigrant, DHS cannot appeal the decision. If the Board sides with DHS, an immigrant can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals by filing a petition for review. Deportation cases arising in California are reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals are members of the judicial branch who are appointed by the President and serve for life. Consequently, they have more independence than Immigration Judges and Members of the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Court of Appeals conducts an appellate process much like the Board does–considering legal argument in writing from both sides and reviewing the evidentiary record. However, there are important restrictions on the judge’s authority. For example, in some contexts the judges cannot review discretionary judgments but are limited to reviewing legal issues.
If you have been charged with deportability, you should immediately hire an experienced immigration lawyer to defend you. The attorneys of the Law Office of Robert L. Lewis are effective and dedicated defenders of undocumented immigrants. For more information, please call for a consultation.