Hallandale: (954) 457-1941 Ft. Myers: (239) 931-6558phone

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has implemented a new process whereby certain foreign nationals who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday may be considered for “deferred action,” which if granted, allows them to obtain an employment authorization document, and permission to remain in the U.S. for a temporary period of time.
The following criteria are the general criteria of the program:

  1. Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
  2. Came to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United states since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Was present in the United States on June 15, 2007, and at the time of making his or her request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012.
  6. Are currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorable discharged veteran of Coast Guard or Armed Forces of United States; and
  7. Has not convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

There are additional wrinkles to the program. It is strongly suggested you consult with an immigration attorney to determine your eligibility for the program, and to advise you of any adverse consequences that may flow from filing the DACA application.

Filing the innocuous-looking Form I-821D is part of a process that may be fraught with hidden perils. For example, an individual who has an outstanding order of removal, deportation or exclusion, whose DACA applications is denied, faces the possibility that DHS will execute the outstanding order and remove him or her from the United States. Applicants who left the United States after an order of removal and then reentered the United States (generally within 10 years of departing) face felony prosecution for “criminal reentry.”

Additionally, DHS generally takes a broader view of the term “conviction” – and will view a withheld adjudication or suspended sentence as a conviction so long as there was a plea of no contest or guilty and some form of penalty was imposed.   The I-821D elicits all the necessary information needed for prosecution. An unwary applicant may in reality by filing an ill-advised DACA application, be handing his head on a platter to the government for prosecution and/or deportation.

The DHS has advised the public that there will be no appeal from a denial of a DACA application. The DHS “one strike and you’re out” policy may seem at odds with the humanitarian goals of the program.  Call the law offices of Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A. to schedule a consultation to determine your eligibility for DACA based on your individual circumstances and history. Attorney Cohen’s law firm is focused on immigration and nationality law.

Information contained in this website is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice to any person reviewing such information. No electronic communication with Attorney Cohen on its own will generate an attorney-client relationship. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements. If you have a question, please call Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen for a consultation: Hallandale Beach Immigration Law Office (954) 457-1941 or Fort Myers Immigration Law Office (239) 931-6558.  www.GreenCardCohen.com.

 
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Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

From time to time, the Secretary of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) may designate a foreign country for TPS (Temporary Protected Status) due to circumstances in the country that temporarily inhibit the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain cases, where the country is unable to adequately handle the return of its nationals. The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.

A successful TPS application will trump an order of removal for the duration of the temporary protected status.

In general, an applicant must show that he or she has been physically present and residing in the United States during the time period specified by the DHS in its TPS designation period. An applicant must additionally be a national of the designated country (or if stateless, one who last resided in the designated country,) – and not have resettled in a 3rd country prior to arriving in the United States.

Individuals who have been convicted of a felony or more than one misdemeanor are generally ineligible for TPS although there is a small exception for certain misdemeanors. The Immigration and Nationality Act defines the term “conviction” broadly, which means that in cases where the defendant plead “no contest” or “guilty” and the judge imposed some form of penalty (jail, probation, fine, etc,) the outcome is considered a conviction, even if the sentence was suspended or the adjudication withheld.

Individuals who are granted TPS, in order to retain such status, must re-register during each of the re-registration periods. Failure to timely re-register will result in termination of TPS status and possible removal from the United States.

In cases of those who failed to register during the initial registration period, the law provides that in certain cases an applicant may file for “late initial” registration. If you had TPS but failed to re-register, the law provides for late re-registration in cases where “good cause is shown.

Applicants denied TPS may be able to appeal a denial to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), or if in removal proceedings, they may renew the application before the Immigration Court.

Before applying for TPS, it is critical that you meet all the legal criteria for TPS status, because USCIS may use the information contained in the application to initiate immigration court removal proceedings against those whose applications are denied. Call the law offices of Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A. in Hallandale Beach (954 457-1941) or Fort Myers (239) 931-6558 to schedule an appointment with the attorney for an in-depth evaluation of your eligibility.

Information contained in this website is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice to any person reviewing such information. No electronic communication with Attorney Cohen on its own will generate an attorney-client relationship. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements. If you have a question, please call Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen for a consultation: Hallandale Beach (954) 457-1941 or Fort Myers (239) 931-6558.   www.GreenCardCohen.com.

 
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Deferred Action Status for Childhood Arrivals (Form I-821D)

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Warns DHS “Childhood Arrival” Procedures are not Child’s Play: Hidden dangers await unsuspecting applicants.

DHS has unveiled a new process whereby certain individuals who entered the United States at a young age may be considered for “deferred action,” allowing them to legally live and work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

The rules appear deceptively simple. According to instructions accompanying Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” an applicant must meet the following criteria to be considered for the program:

1. Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
2. Came to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday;
3. Have continuously resided in the United states since June 15, 2007, up to the
present time;
4 Was present in the United States on June 15, 2007, and at the time of making his or her request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012.
6. Are currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorable discharged veteran of Coast Guard or Armed Forces of United States; and
7. Has not convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Let’s look at items 1 and 2, which deal with proof of the applicant’s date of birth, and continuous residence in the United States since June 15, 2007. It may come as a surprise to learn that the DHS does not necessarily accept at face value the information that is on a birth certificate, especially in instances where there was a late-registered birth. DHS has also taken issue with documents from countries that it believes have a high propensity for document fraud. DHS has even been known to challenge a foreign national’s representation about his date of birth, to the point in some cases of subjecting detained individuals claiming juvenile status to forensic dental examinations to estimate the person’s age.

What about item 3, “continuously resided in the United states since June 15, 2007, up to the present time.” The phrase “continuously resided” has traditionally been a legal “term or art” in immigration law, which means that it has a meaning that is different from the ordinary everyday use of the phrase. “Continuously resided” in immigration law has meant that the foreign national has been “living” in the U.S., as opposed to “visiting” the United States. Physical presence, on the other hand, has generally been used in immigration law to refer to the actual place where you are physically situated, regardless of your intent to ultimately stay or leave. DHS has indicated that “brief, casual, and innocent” absences will not interrupt the period of continuous residence for the new deferred action program. The problem is that individuals who entered on visa categories such as B-1 or B-2 visitor visas and F-1 visas, at the time of their entry, legally had to have the intent to return to their unrelinquished foreign domiciles. If that visitor or student visa holder made multiple trips in and out of the United States on his visitor or student visa, each time he entered the United States he was necessarily representing to the immigration authorities that he was coming into the United States for a temporary purpose (not to reside permanently) and that he continued to have an intent to return to his home country.

A foreign national entering the United States on a visitor visa and may be allowed 6 months in that status. It is possible that an immigration officer may determine that the initial 6 months did not constitute time spent in continuous residence in the United States. What about the person who since June 15, 2007 traveled in and out of the U.S. on a visitor visa on multiple occasions, and then files a Form I-821D, claiming that he was actually continuously residing in the United States for the entire period of time. The question that the DHS may ask is: were you lying then, or are you lying now? Were you visiting the United States or were you actually living here? Possible result: denied I-821D application, and possible notation in that person’s immigration file of visa fraud.

Item 4 requires proof of presence in the United States on June 15, 2007. Many individuals who entered the United States without inspection as young people may not have been immediately registered in school. As a result, it may present a vast challenge to that individual to try to prove to DHS that he was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2007. DHS lists as possible secondary evidence affidavits from individuals aware of the applicant’s presence in the United States. In reality, DHS has a history of giving little or no credence to affidavits, in the absence of “hard evidence” of the applicant’s initial presence.

Item 5, requires that on June 15, 2012 the applicant has been in the U.S. without inspection or that his “lawful status” expired as of that time. “Lawful status” is another immigration law term of art, which has been the subject of much debate and repeated clarifications over the years. The issue of “lawful status” will be particularly tricky for individuals who were admitted to the United States for “Duration of Status.” The form documenting their DHS status (Form I-94), will not have an expiration date, but rather the notation “D/S” (for “duration of status”). F-1 visa students have a “D/S” notation on their I-94 cards. The date of termination of a student’s lawful status has been traditionally defined as when an immigration officer makes a determination in the student’s immigration file that the student has violated his student visa status. The problem is that the former student does not necessarily receive notification from the DHS as the determination that the student is not out of status.

Item 6, dealing with qualifying school or U.S. Armed Services history does not define what “in school” means. Does it apply to trade school? Does it apply to part-time study? What level of accreditation is required? As to the inclusion veterans of the Armed Forces, DHS is presumably aware that in order to enlist in a branch the U.S. Armed Forces, an individual must be a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder).

Additionally, Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that an individual who is on active duty during times of declared hostilities or who was honorably discharged, having served during a period of declared hostilities, is entitled to expedited U.S. Citizenship. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been in a continuous period of declared hostilities (the ongoing “war on terror”).

On to item 7, “significant misdemeanor” is clearly a subjective term. That ambiguity aside, however, there is a deeper problem that he not been explained to the general public by DHS.

The term “conviction” under Sec. 101(a)(48)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is broader than the traditional criminal definition of conviction. In fact, I have seen many instances of foreign nationals caught completely by surprise when DHS arrests them and initiates removal proceedings against them, for judgments that they did not even considered to be criminal convictions.

For example, the person may have – on the advice of criminal counsel – pled “no contest” and received a “withheld adjudication” coupled with a fine or probation. He may have been advised that since the court did not “adjudicate” him “guilty” but instead “withheld” the adjudication, that no conviction resulted. In fact that individual may have been perfectly correct in telling a prospective employer that he was never convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, in 1996 the Immigration and Nationality Act was amended to expand the definition of “conviction” to include situations where the court withholds adjudication of guilt or suspends the sentence. Nowhere in the DHS’s instructions is this critical point made.

Not only do these individuals face receiving denials on their deferred action applications, they also risk being categorized as a “high priority” subjects for their arrest and deportation, depending on the nature of their criminal history.

Filing the innocuously-looking FormI-821D will be a process that is fraught with hidden perils. Individuals who have outstanding orders of removal, deportation or exclusion, whose applications are denied, face the possibility that DHS will execute the outstanding order and remove that person from the United States. Individuals who left the United States after an order of removal and then reentered the United States (generally within 10 years of departing) face felony prosecution for “criminal reentry.” The I-821D elicits all the necessary information needed for prosecution. An unwary applicant may very easily hand his head on a platter to DHS and to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for both prosecution and deportation.

The DHS has announced that there will be no appeal from a denial of the Form I-821D deferred action applications. This “one strike and you’re out” may seem incongruous with the Obama administration’s stated humanitarian goals of this deferred action program. The Form I-821D is one test that these students and former students cannot afford to flunk.

Mitchell J. Cohen, Attorney at Law
501 Golden Isles Drive, Suite 205
Hallandale Beach, FL 33009
Tel. (954) 457-1941
mcohenlaw@yahoo.com
www.greencardcohen.com

Mitchell Cohen is a member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, with offices in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Information contained in this website is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice to any person reviewing such information. No electronic communication with Attorney Cohen on its own will generate an attorney-client relationship. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements. If you have a question, please call Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen for a consultation: Hallandale Beach Immigration Law Office (954) 457-1941 or Fort Myers Immigration Law Office (239) 931-6558   www.GreenCardCohen.com.

 

Important Information Regarding Immigration Detainees the Broward Transitional Center (BTC)

By Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire
12/15/2012

 

Broward Transitional Center

The Broward Transitional Center (“BTC”) is a detention facility that houses – among other individuals – immigration detainees that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in the process of attempting to deport. Some of the individuals detained have final orders of deportation, whereas others may have pending Immigration Court proceedings. BTC is currently managed by a private company, the GEO Group. There is an Immigration Court located within the facility, where removal proceedings are held. Immigration detainees at the facility may be eligible for a bond or order of supervision, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The facility’s address is: Broward Transitional Center, 3900 North Powerline Road, Pompano Beach, FL 33073. Tel. (954) 973-4485. ICE’s main telephone number within the facility is (954) 236-4900. The ICE Supervisory Deportation Officer in charge of the facility can be reached at (954) 545-6060. Detainees cannot receive incoming calls, however, ICE states that a person may leave an “urgent message” for a detainee by calling (954) 973-4485, making sure to “leave the detainee’s full name, alien registration number and your name and telephone number where you can be reached.” A short guide by ICE about the facility and its policies is located at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/dro/facilities/pdf/wccpbfl.pdf. Some of the information, may be dated. For example, immigration bonds may now be additionally posted at the Miramar “ERO,” located at 2805 SW 145th Ave., Miramar, FL 33037 (tel. 954 – 843-5800).

The currently published hours of visitation for friends and family are Mondays through Fridays, 8 AM to 9 PM. I recommend that you call the facility first before visiting, to make sure that the person you wish to visit is there, and that he will be available to see at the time you wish to visit. There are frequent “head counts,” and other routines in the facility which could interfere with your visit.

If you receive a call from a friend or family member who is in immigration custody, it is a very good idea to ask them the following questions, in order to be able to locate them “in the system”:

Where are you (name and address of the facility)?

What is your alien number? (If a foreign national (a/k/a “alien”) has not been previously assigned an alien number (a/k/a “A number”), he will be once he is in custody and processed by ICE. Sometimes a person will be assigned more than one alien number over the course of his or her life. Having the person’s alien number will greatly facilitate locating the person in the system and obtaining critical information about pending or prior Immigration Court proceedings. A detainee will often have a wrist band with the alien number printed on it. The alien number will have the format A__ __ __ – ___ ___ – ___ ___ ___ (for example: A012 345 678). Sometimes the number may have only 8 digits.

What is the exact spelling of the name that you are detained under?

What is your date of birth?

What country does ICE have you listed as a native of?

Have you been issued a bond?

Do you have an upcoming Immigration Court hearing?

When talking on the phone to a detainee at the facility, be aware that the calls are monitored.

With an alien number, it is possible to call the Immigration Court automated telephone system to find out about an upcoming hearing or the date, place and outcome of concluded Immigration Court proceedings. That telephone number is (800) 898-7180. Another source of information about a detainee’s Immigration Court proceedings is the Krome Processing Center Immigration Court, which has administrative control over the BTC Immigration Court. Krome Immigration Court’s Clerk’s Office can be reached at (786) 422-8700.

Immigration detainees who over the age of 18 might be located using the ICE “Online Detainee Locator System,” located at https://locator.ice.gov/odls/searchByName.do.
If you have a friend or family member in immigration custody, it is generally critical that they obtain legal representation as soon as possible. Unlike a defendant in criminal proceedings, there is no equivalent of a “public defender” for people in deportation or removal proceedings. Immigration Court hearings for those in immigration custody occur very swiftly, and the respondents in these proceedings are often not given very much time to secure an attorney. As a result, many end up representing themselves, usually with catastrophic results. Others may already have orders of deportation or removal (sometimes entered in absentia, that they were not even aware of). In some cases, it is possible to motion the Immigration Court or Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen the deportation or removal proceedings, and eliminate the order of deportation before the Deportation Officer accomplishes a detainee’s deportation.

I have been successful in securing the release of many individuals who were detained in Immigration custody, and obtaining durable Immigration relief for many clients through litigation in Immigration Court.  If you have a friend or family member detained at BTC, Krome, or other immigration detention facility, call me at my law office, Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A., 1250 E Hallandale Beach Blvd., Ste. 500, Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009. Tel. (954) 457-1941.   Fort Myers Law Office: 3620 Colonial Boulevard, Suite 160, Fort Myers, Florida 33966.   Tel. (239) 931-6558.   www.greencardcohen.com.
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Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

5 Common Immigration Interview Mistakes to Avoid

By Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

1. Showing up late (or not showing up at all).

If you are not on time for your USCIS appointment there is a good possibility that your application will be denied. A good idea is to do a test drive to the USCIS Office before your interview date, to make sure that you know the route. Failure to appear at your interview normally is deemed to be an abandonment of your application. Give yourself plenty of driving extra time to make allowances for traffic and lines getting through security at the building. Leave sharp objects, liquids, lighters and matches in the car.

2. Not bringing original documents.

The immigration officer conducting your interview will normally ask to see the original of copies you submitted with your petition or application. For residency cases based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, this will include a certified copy of the marriage certificate, certified copies of any divorces decrees, certified copy of birth certificate of applicant, the original U.S. passport or certificate of naturalization of the U.S. Citizen spouse or certified copy of U.S. state-issued birth certificate. Any certification must come from the official records custodian (for example, the clerk of court). In most cases, the Immigration Officer will want to see the passport that the applicant entered the United States on, and I-94 card, if any. The immigration officer also likes to see the original birth certificates of any children born of the marriage. He or she may also ask to see the originals of the copies you may have submitted demonstrating the bona fides (good faith nature) of your marriage, so have a set of originals of these as well (photos featuring the couple, driver licenses, joint bank statements, lease agreement, etc.) If you have been arrested or cited for a crime, certified copies of the arrest report, and court documents including the disposition will be requested by the immigration officer.

Failure to bring an original (or certified copy) may result in a delay in the processing of your case, or worse, a denial of your case if the officer is not in a charitable mood. If you have lost or cannot find one of your original documents do go to the interview however, as failure to show up will usually result in an automatic denial. I recommend that you try to bring to the appointment evidence that you have requested a replacement original or certified copy.

3. Not bringing an interpreter (if one of the interviewees is not fluent in English).

The USCIS does not provide interpreters for their interviews. The agency requires you to bring your own interpreter. Husbands and wives cannot interpret for one another. Attorneys are not allowed to interpret for their clients. If the immigration officer is having difficulty communicating with a petitioner or applicant because of a language barrier, he or she may reschedule the interview, or worse yet, deny the petition or application.

4. Being unprepared.

The old adage “if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail” rings very true in the area of immigration interviews. Like in any important test in life, those who are prepared are more likely to succeed, whereas those who fail to prepare may be walking into a nightmare scenario. Failing to bring enough proof of the marriage may result in the immigration officer having serious doubts about the marriage, and conduct a separation marriage interview, in which each spouse is interrogated separately, and their responses looked over with a fine tooth comb, looking for any discrepancies in the answers. An unprepared applicant’s answers to seemingly harmless questions may result in a denial (and even placement in removal proceedings). Many applicants are unpleasantly surprised when they find they are being asked questions that the officer has about previous applications they filed with immigration. In fact, an officer will deny a marriage petition if he or she determines that a previous marriage was entered into solely for immigration purposes. Some applicants have outstanding orders of deportation or removal that they do not even know about and may face arrest at the interview. Others do not understand the implications of their arrest or admissions to crimes. These may completely disqualify the applicant from the benefit sought, or require a waiver to be filed and approved in order to obtain residency.

5. Not realizing that the immigration officer is a human being.

Immigration officers are human, and they experience the same range of human emotions as the rest of us, including frustration and annoyance. When someone goes to an immigration interview and is giving non-responsive answers, or spends the majority of the interview digging through bags looking for documents, the officer’s level of frustration may increase – which in turn may increase your chances of being denied. Attending an important interview by a USCIS officer is a formal matter, and one should dress appropriately for the interview (translation: no flip-flops or shorts). That way, the immigration officer will at least see that the interviewees are taking the interview seriously.

Given the perils, high stakes and complexities involved in a residency (adjustment of status) application, it is a wise idea to be represented at every stage of the process – including the immigration interview – by a competent attorney well versed in immigration law.

Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  This article is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice for any particular matter. Looking for an Immigration Attorney in Hallandale Beach or Fort Myers areas?  Call the law offices of Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.

Hallandale Beach Immigration Law Office:
Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.
1250 E Hallandale Beach Blvd., Ste. 500
Hallandale Beach, FL 33009
Tel. (954) 457 – 1941
Fort Myers Immigration Law Office:
Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.
3620 Colonial Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL 33966
Tel. (239) 931-6558

 

www.greencardcohen.com
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What Happens at 333 South Miami Avenue (Immigration Court)?

By Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire

333 South Miami Avenue

Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen

333 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33130 is the home of the Miami Immigration Court, which handles deportation and deportation-type proceedings for South Florida area (the 8th Floor houses social security). There are also detention facilities which have immigration courts embedded within them, such as the Krome Processing Center in Miami, and the Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Pompano Beach. The Miami Immigration Court also handles IHP (“Institutional Hearing Program”) removal proceedings, generally on the 7th floor of the building. IHP involves persons who are still serving their criminal sentences in jail. Their removal proceedings are handled through a closed-circuit television system.

The building opens at 7:30 AM, and there is a parking lot adjoining the building, which charges $20 cash. Be dressed appropriately. Security at the building’s entrance asks for identification, and scan one’s belongings through an x-ray machine. Then you step through a metal detector. Leave any sharp objects in your car. Do not bring any matches or lighters. If you are scheduled for a hearing, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to find the court building, park, and to get through security. It is a common occurrence for people to get ordered deported in their absence (“in absentia”) when they fail to show up on time for their Immigration Court hearing.

The lobby has some seating and a bank of elevators. There is also a list of judges and their courtrooms posted nearby. If your notice of hearing lists Room 700, that is the clerk’s office. Go to the 7th Floor, and ask the clerk at the window which courtroom to go to. An alternative, is to call (800) 898-7180 the automated information system, press #1, then enter your alien number (also known as an “A” number – it is on your notice to appear and notice of hearing and is an 8 or 9 digit number beginning). Press #1 again, and hopefully you will be told the time, date, and place of your immigration court hearing (including the Immigration Judge’s name). Still yet another method of obtaining information about your hearing is to call the clerk’s office at (305) 789-4221, and give them your alien number.

Here is a guide to the floors of 333 South Miami Avenue:

Floor 1: Lobby
Floors 2 and 3: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of the Chief Counsel (a/k/a “Trial Attorney Unit” or more informally “Immigration Prosecutor’s Office)
Floors 4-7: Immigration Judges’ Courtrooms
Floor 7: Clerk’s Office (“Room 700”)
Floor 8: Social Security Administration

On each of the floors where there are courtrooms, there are waiting rooms by the elevators. Inside the waiting rooms on the wall are listed each judge’s docket for the day (list of individuals and their hearing times). Make sure you are in the judge’s courtroom by the time your hearing is scheduled to begin. Silence or turn off your cell phone before entering the courtroom. Do not chew gum in court. Keep noise at a minimum. When the judge walks into or out of the courtroom, the proper protocol is to stand up.

If you are unrepresented, you should show the judge’s judicial assistant your hearing notice, so you are entered on a list of those present waiting to be called. Once your name is called, you will sit down at the “respondent’s table.” A respondent is the immigration court equivalent of a “defendant”. At a minimum, you will be asked to confirm your name, address, and telephone number.

Given the fact that U.S. immigration law is extremely complicated and harsh, it is generally a terrible idea to attempt to represent yourself in immigration court, even “a little.” The best time to hire an immigration attorney is well before your first hearing. Statements or admissions that you make about seemingly inconsequential things may inflict serious damage to your defense. Even acknowledging that you were born outside of the U.S., or that you were “properly served” with the notice to appear, or admitting that you committed a crime, may advance the government’s case against you. An unrepresented person may ask the immigration judge for a “continuance” (postponement) to find an attorney. If you are unrepresented at the initial master calendar hearing, the judge should ask you if you want time to find an attorney or if you wish to represent yourself. A polite affirmative request from a respondent seeking time to find an attorney may be “Your Honor, may I please have some time to find an attorney?” The judge may, at his or her own discretion, then reschedule your hearing to a later date, at which point you will be expected to appear with your attorney. The decision to grant or deny the request for time to find an attorney is up to the immigration judge. Therefore, it is best to have your immigration attorney from the start. The judge is much less likely to grant a second request for a continuance to find an attorney. If the continuance is granted, you will be warned about the consequences of failing to appear at your next hearing, and handed a hearing notice. You will also be handed a change of address form (Form EOIR-33C). Any address change must be filed with the clerk’s office (7th Floor), and a copy served on the Office of the Chief Counsel (2nd Floor).

Depending on the nature and individual facts of your case, you may have several immigration court hearings over the course of several months or even in some cases years. Typically the early phase of the hearing involves the immigration prosecutor trying to establish that you are subject to deportation from the United States. In some cases it may be possible for your immigration lawyer get the proceedings terminated based on defects in the notice to appear (the charging document) or based on effectively contesting the substance of the charge(s). Should the government prevail on that issue, then the next issue is what if any immigration relief you qualify for. If the Immigration Judge finds that you are eligible to apply for relief, he or she will require the filing of the application(s) and supporting documentation, and conduct one or more hearings on the application(s), where testimony of witnesses will generally be presented. At the conclusion, the Immigration Judge will rule on the merits of case.

In 1922 the Supreme Court noted that deportation “may result in loss of both property and life, or of all that makes life worth living.” For a person in Immigration Court proceedings the stakes are extremely high, as a deportation order may effectively mean permanent exile from United States. That is why it is very important to hire a good, experienced immigration attorney.

Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire has law offices in Fort Myers and Hallandale Beach, and has extensive experience representing clients in Immigration Court.

Hallandale Beach Immigration Law Office: 1250 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Ste. 500, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009
Tel. (954) 457-1941

Fort Myers Immigration Law Office: 3620 Colonial Avenue, Ste. 160, Fort Myers, FL 33966.
Tel. (239) 931-6558

www.greencardcohen.com

This article is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice nor should it be construed to create an attorney-client relationship.