Five Tips to Follow During a Removal or Deportation

Receiving a Notice to Appear (Form I-862) may feel like it’s the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to be. Although it is a cause for concern, especially if you’re out of status (in other words, your current immigration status or visa has expired, you have just been convicted of a crime, or you entered illegally), there are several things you can do to ease, or even fight the #removal and #deportation process.

First, let’s get a few things straight. If your visa status expired, that’s pretty bad. If you entered the United States illegally, that’s even worse. But, these tips are in no way an exhaustive guide to “gaming the system”. There are two types of illegal immigrants, those that have been caught, and those who will be caught. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.

Fortunately, most immigrants are hard working, decent, very nice people with loving families. They may be trying to pursue the American Dream, but our current immigration system is full of hurdles, and they’re really hard to overcome. These tips are for them. In fact, they might be for everyone. Sometimes, an American citizen will receive a Notice to Appear. The government is full of people, and people have a habit of making mistakes.

Now, enough with the editorial. Let’s get down to our Five Practical Tips to follow during a removal or deportation procedure.

Tip #1: Don’t panic.

Easier said than done. It may feel like the agents from ICE will drop down from a Blackhawk helicopter at 2AM, and burst through your window, knock down your door, and haul out everyone including the cat, but in reality the removal process is much slower. It usually begins with a minor run-in with the law. A traffic violation, a job application, or even a littlebounced check. You may be reported to the USCIS, but agents dressed in full body armor and holding assault weapons will not knock down your door and arrest everyone in your home.

You will receive a Notice to Appear (Form I-862) through the mail. A letter. That’s it.

You might receive the letter through the mail, or someone might hand it to you. Either way, the removal process usually begins with this letter.

What you do with that letter is extremely important. Do not toss it. Do not ignore it. Do not leave it for later. If you do, the agents will come eventually. But, for now, take notice that you have been summoned to appear before an immigration judge in at least 10 days’ time. And you’d better be there when the letter says.

Tip #2: Participate in the process.

Here’s what you do after Tip 1: You participate. You need to participate. There is no other way to defend yourself, or your loved ones, than by participating. Doing nothing will eventually get you deported, for sure.

But, if you participate in the removal process, your chances of succeeding increase by far. You might qualify for a stay (a delay in the removal process), you might qualify for a waiver (an excuse not to be deported), you might qualify for a #defense (a legal argument that might end the removal process), you might qualify for a relief (a special exception), but none of these will work if you don’t participate in the process.

Participation is an active requirement of your defense. That means that you actively have to do something, which is the only way defend yourself. Now, not doing anything might be a way of silently protesting, or voicing your opinion about the system, but be sure that by doing nothing you will be deported. Your silent opposition will be placed on an airplane, and you will continue your protest in exile.

On the other hand, if you participate, you raise an active defense, you fight the system within the system, and you voice your opposition, there’s much more that you can achieve. You can prove that you are hard working, decent member of the American society, and that you deserve a shot for the American Dream, just like everybody else. And that can only be achieved by participating in the removal process.

You need to act.

That means that you have to appear before the immigration judge, you have to file forms, gather information, and seek help. You have to get up from your daily routine, and begin a long and hard process that has begun against you. But, if you don’t participate, the process prevails. And you don’t.

Tip #3: Gather information.

Right after choosing to participate, the best thing you can do to bolster your defense is gather information. We call this the “Ant and the Grasshopper” Phase. Yes, it’s a children’s fable, where the ant works tirelessly gathering supplies for the winter, while the grasshopper plays around. You know who wins out? The Ant. The ant spent time and effort gathering, and the grasshopper dies. You’re the ant. Be the ant. Gather away. Winter is coming.

You need to prove when you entered, why you entered, who you live with, who depends on you, how you live, and why you want or need to stay. Think of this information as colors on a palette that will help you paint a picture of who you are, who your family is, and how your life is. These can be documentes, receipts, photographs, letters, videos, social media posts, payment stubs, bills, credit and bank statements. Anything and everything that can help to paint a broad picture of how decent, law abiding, hard working, loving and nice you are.

There is no hard line rule for what or how much you need to gather, so every little bit helps. Keep notes on what you have, and what you can get. Organize, categorize, and document everything in the best way possible. This will help you, or your representative in the long run. The more information you can get, the better. Now, a good balance of quantity and quality needs to be achieved, so lots of not-so-important documents might not be as good as one solid, reliable piece of evidence, but it’s always better to be on the safe side of “I have it right here”, than “Please take my word for it.”

Tip 4: Time is on your side. Sometimes.

Time. It keeps on slipping. But, in the case of removal or deportation defense, time is sometimes your friend. The longer you have been in the United States, is usually better. Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s helpful to overstay your visa, or the longer you’ve been out of status, the better. Oh no, quite the contrary. The longer you stay inside the United States illegal, the worse it can be. You might face a prohibition to reenter from 3 years to 10 years. In some cases, it may be better to leave voluntarily, but that’s another topic altogether. But if you’ve received a Notice to Appear, you’re already in the USCIS’s sights.

Remember that I started off with “Don’t Panic”? That’s because the process is excruciatingly slow.

The longer it takes, the more time you have to prove that you are a decent member of the American society. Also, any rash decision that you take, without gathering information, or finding help, will most certainly be the wrong one. Running back home without knowing what your options were can be as bad as not applying for a stay (a stay is a “delay” in legal terms), or a waiver (a “waiver is an exception in legal terms), so act quickly, but know beforehand that the immigration system is slow, and it takes a very, very, very long time. It takes long to apply, it takes long to be handled, and it takes long to be deported. This delay might give you the extra time to prepare yourself, and prepare the best defense against removal and deportation you can prepare.

Tip 5: Get help. Quickly.

The last tip is by far the most important of all them combined: Get help. Get legal help. Get a lawyer.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford one. There are many, many, MANY non-profit organizations all throughout the United States that offer free legal representation for immigrants, so search for a local one on Google, and have someone who knows what they’re doing on your side. Getting legal counsel is the key to success. Yes, you could do it on your own. But, you could also try your luck at performing your own surgery. You just might get lucky, but I don’t believe in luck.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

So get out there and find someone to help you. You are definitely not alone. You are not the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. And you are absolutely not the only one. Search online, ask everyone around you, get opinions, and find help. It’s out there, but you have (according to Tip 3) to look for it.

Your attorney can help you gather quality information, help you organize that information, and knows how to best relay that information on your behalf. Immigration law is fraught with complexity and confusion, so having a guide to help you through it is essential. There are hundreds of forms and documents, hundreds of court cases, and many, many, many arguments that your attorney will know how to custom tailor them to your case. Like I said, there may be no way to “game” the system, but your attorney definitely knows how to navigate through it.

Deportation defense is a team effort. Both you and your attorney will work together with the same goal in mind, and armed with organized preparation your chances of succeeding increase exponentially. After all, that’s what it’s about, increasing your chances of success. There are no tricks, no gimmicks, and there are never any shortcuts. Thankfully, there is help available. You just have to ask.

That wraps up our Top Five Tips for Deportation Defense. Send this list to your friends, they might need help, too. Let us know in the comments if you’ve been through this, and share your story. Feel free to add your own tips, and let me know what you think of these tips on Twitter: @boricualaw

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