If you’re experiencing the threat of being deported from the United States, we understand how difficult the process can be. You may be scared or frustrated, and the legal process is complex. To help you, the Atlanta immigration attorneys at Antonini & Cohen have put together this list of 12 things you should know in case you are placed into deportation proceedings.

1. You have the right to a hearing in front of an immigration judge.

Do not feel pressured to accept an order of deportation from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers once you have been detained. You have the right to ask an immigration judge to review your case before any final decision on your potential removal from the United States. You should tell the ICE officers you want to see an immigration judge.

2. You have the right to hire an attorney.

You have the right to hire an immigration lawyer for your removal hearing. The immigration judge must give you reasonable time to look for, speak with, and hire an attorney. It’s important you clearly state on the record you would like to have an attorney. To waive your right, the immigration judge would ask you directly whether you wish to proceed without a lawyer and you would answer affirmatively expressly waiving your right. Do not waive your right to an immigration attorney!

3. The immigration judge must provide you with a list of free and low-cost legal counsel.

The government will not appoint an attorney for you in deportation proceedings even if you can’t afford one. However, there are many free and low-cost legal service providers in Atlanta. Immigration judges must advise you about these services and confirm you have received a list of these qualified free or low-cost legal services. If you don’t already have this list, the immigration judge should ensure you receive it at your hearing.

4. You have the right to request an interpreter.

You have the right to understand everything happening in your removal proceedings, and you have the right to testify at your hearings. If you don’t speak English, these rights are protected by the availability of interpreters. You should state clearly at your first hearing the language or dialect in which you feel most comfortable communicating.

Even if you speak a lesser-known dialect, you shouldn’t feel pressured to accept an interpreter in any language other than the one you understand best and feel most comfortable speaking. Sometimes an interpreter is provided in your language, but he or she may not speak your dialect. If you don’t understand the interpreter or feel the interpretation is inaccurate, you should refuse the person and ask for a new interpreter.

5. You have the right to request time to prepare your case.

You have the right to ask the immigration judge for more time to prepare your case. You must show the immigration judge you have a good reason for him or her to grant you this request. In legal terms, the request for more time is called a continuance, and your reason is called good cause. For example, asking for more time to hire an attorney or collect documents should be considered good cause.

6. You have a duty to notify the court if your address changes.

You must notify the court within five days of any address or phone number changes. It’s important you meet this legal requirement so you can receive written notice of the time, date, and place of your hearing or any other information the court may send. Failing to notify the court could result in your detention, a hearing in your absence leading to a deportation order, or your ineligibility for some forms of relief.

7. You have the right to challenge the evidence presented by the government.

Although there’s a presumption the official documents submitted by the government are reliable, don’t be afraid to speak up and correct the record of your proceedings if you feel the evidence presented is incorrect. The immigration judge cannot simply accept the government’s evidence as reliable and true if you argue against – or contest – its reliability. You have the right – and should be given the opportunity – to respond to and counter the evidence provided by the government.

8. You have the right to present evidence and witnesses in your case.

You are entitled to a full and fair hearing before the immigration judge. Before your final hearing, you can submit any evidence or present any witnesses you feel will help your case. You can also request your proceedings be moved to the court closest to where you, your witnesses, and your attorney live.

9. The immigration judge must advise you if you’re eligible for relief.

The immigration judge has a duty to notify you of your right to file for any form of relief you may be eligible for and give you an opportunity to apply for this relief. Because of their familiarity with the immigration laws, the immigration judges must ask about the facts of your case at your hearing so they can identify any potential form of relief available to you. They must then advise you of any application you might be able to file, including – if you’re eligible – a right to file for asylum or ask for voluntary departure.

10. You have the right to appeal if you’re denied.

The immigration judge’s decision is final only if you waive your right to appeal. You should reserve your right to appeal and seek the advice of an immigration attorney who can review your proceedings before you accept a final order. You have 30 days from any decision to submit your notice of appeal. Appealing may be necessary if you feel the immigration judge made a legal mistake (and therefore made the incorrect decision) in your case. You may also want to appeal if the immigration judge violated one of the rights discussed here.

11. The government will have an attorney.

Know the government will be represented by a trained attorney who will argue you should be deported.

12. It’s in your best interest to hire an immigration attorney.

Immigration laws are complex, and the odds are stacked against you. You should look for and hire knowledgeable legal representation. Statistics show immigrants who have an attorney are five times more likely to get the relief they seek compared to immigrants who don’t have legal representation. Having a qualified immigration attorney on your side could make a huge difference in your case and help ensure you are given a fair hearing.

Contact Immigration Attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia

Please contact the Atlanta immigration attorneys at Antonini & Cohen if you need assistance with your deportation proceedings or if you feel your rights have been violated at an earlier hearing. In some circumstances, a violation of these rights can allow us to help you reopen your case and give you a second opportunity at a fair hearing in front of an immigration judge.

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