What Can I Expect at My First Immigration Court Hearing?

Being in immigration court proceedings is undoubtedly a stressful process. Immigration court proceedings are serious, as they are initiated against an individual who is being charged as removable from the United States. If the case is not successful before the immigration court, then the individual can be ordered removed from the United States to their country of origin.

For many people, not knowing what to expect in court can make the process more daunting. Nonetheless, this article will provide important information on immigration court proceedings and on what to expect at your first immigration court hearing.

The first immigration court hearing is called a Master Calendar Hearing. This hearing is scheduled before the immigration court so that a judge can review the preliminary matters in your immigration case. When you go to the immigration court on the day of your Master Calendar Hearing, there will be several cases scheduled with your immigration judge. The immigration judge will go through the list of the scheduled cases, and spend anywhere from 5 minutes to a half-hour on each case.

Because there are many cases to get through, it is important that you are there early for your hearing so that you are ready when your case is called. You also need to give yourself time to park, go through security, and find your courtroom.

Nonetheless, in most immigration courts, immigration judges tend to first handle the cases of individuals who have attorneys. After they handle those cases, immigration judges then generally turn to the cases of individuals who do not have attorneys.

Once you are in the courtroom, you will see that the courtroom gallery contains a table for individuals facing removal proceedings, who are referred to as “respondents.” There will be another table for the government prosecutor, who represents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They are called the trial attorney or the assistant chief counsel.

When your case is called, you will be called to appear before the immigration judge. The immigration judge will begin discussing the nature of your case, advising you of the rights that you have in immigration court proceedings, and inquiring about whether you wish to have a lawyer. Lawyers are not appointed in immigration court and individuals must obtain them at their own expense.

If it is your very first appearance and you do not have a lawyer, you are permitted to ask the immigration judge to give you time to get a lawyer. The immigration judge will likely grant your request and give you a chance to come back with your lawyer. Because immigration court proceedings are incredibly complex, it is extremely important to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer to guide you through your case.

After this first Master Calendar Hearing, the immigration judge can ask you to come back for another Master Calendar Hearing with your attorney. Or, if you proceeded on your case with a lawyer at your very first Master Calendar Hearing and prepared and submitted your case to the immigration judge, then the immigration judge may set you for an Individual Hearing, which is the final trial date.

If you have more questions about immigration court hearings and the removal proceedings process, please contact the experienced removal defense lawyers at Johnson & Masumi, P.C. We have successfully represented numerous individuals in highly complex removal cases for decades and have achieved outstanding results for our clients. Contact us at 703-506-1400 to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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