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Removal / Deportation proceedings are initiated against a foreign national who is not a United States citizen. The goal of the United States Department of Homeland Security ("USDHS") during removal or deportation proceedings is to deport you (the "Respondent") from the United States. People can find themselves in deportation or removal proceedings in several ways. 

A neighbor, co-worker, family-member or stranger can report you to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") office who investigates and then decides whether or not to place you in proceedings. Another way you can find yourself in proceedings is by committing a crime. Driving without a license is a crime! While you may only be fined as a result of driving without a license you may be questioned with respect to your status in the United States. If you do not have documentation proving that you are in the United States as a Citizen, a Lawful Permanent Resident or in some other legal status ICE officers could be notified.

You could be placed in proceedings as a result of having filed an application or petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), which ultimately gets denied. USCIS would then initiate proceedings against you directly. Maybe you do not drive yourself because you do not have a license, but you ride as a passenger in someone's car who may or may not have a driver's license. If the driver is stopped by police officers, as a passenger in the vehicle you could be questioned and ultimately placed in proceedings. Or, you may be working without employment authorization from USCIS. ICE officers could find you while investigating your place of employment or perhaps while performing a raid. The possibilities are endless!

What happens to you when you are placed in proceedings to be deported from the United States depends on several factors such as prior immigration violations, immigration history, criminal background, manner of entry, length of time in the United States, and ties to the United States.

Proceedings are started with the filing of a Notice to Appear with the Immigration Court. The Notice to Appear ("NTA") is a charging document, which contains your name and address and the reason(s) why the United States believes you are deportable or removable from the United States. It also provides the provisions(s) of the Immigration and Nationality Act which you are charged with violating.

Upon receipt of the NTA the Immigration Court will send you a Notice of Hearing telling you where, when and at what time you are required to appear in person at the Immigration Court for a Master Calendar Hearing. Respondents who live in Ohio are required to appear in front of the Immigration Court in Cleveland, Ohio. Respondents who live in the Cincinnati area for example are required to travel to Cleveland and appear in person unless ordered otherwise by the Immigration Judge.

The Master Calendar hearing is the equivalent to an arraignment in criminal proceedings and consists of the Immigration Judge, the Assistant Chief Counsel, who represents ICE / United States and you and your attorney, if you so choose to have one represent you. You are entitled to have an attorney represent you during your removal proceedings, however one will not be appointed to you by the government. You are responsible for retaining and paying for your own attorney. 

The purpose of the Master Calendar hearing is to determine what is going to happen to your case. Are you planning to hire a lawyer? Are you eligible for some type of relief? If so, then what and how and when are you going to file your application for relief? Are you not eligible for anything and therefore take an order of removal or request voluntary departure? Do you need a translator? If so, one will already be available at no cost to you or your hearing will be continued to another date to allow the Court time to obtain a translator for your next hearing.

At the conclusion of your Master Calendar Hearing you may find yourself scheduled to appear for another hearing or with an order of removal, which means you have been ordered removed from the United States. It is clear from this brief description of what happens during removal proceedings that the process is overwhelming and confusing. If you are unfamiliar with removal proceedings and the immigration laws you could find yourself deported from the United States.

Gabriela has been representing clients in removal proceedings since 2001. She will explain the process and explore every option available to you. She will provide you with her honest opinion with respect to your eligibility for relief and your chances of prevailing as well as keep you informed of what is happening with your case. She will provide you with the information you need to help you determine what your immigration goals are and to put you in control of your case. She will work to resolve your proceedings quickly, efficiently and in your favor.