Categories: Deportation Defense

What is a Notice to Appear (NTA) and what does it mean for immigrants who receive one?

If you or a family member have been served with a Notice to Appear, it is a very serious matter.  NTA’s are the document that is served on an alien to advise them that deportation proceedings have begun.

While some people are served the NTA and detained, there are thousands of people walking around the U.S. who have received and NTA and are “in proceedings.”  The NTA usually has the initial court date.

The NTA also lists the allegations that the government believes require that you be removed (or deported) from the U.S.  These allegations typically track your immigration history and set forth the reason (or reasons) why removal is warranted.

The allegations typically say something like:

  • You are not a US citizen
  • You are a citizen of your home country
  • You entered the US on a particular date
  • Whether your entry was authorized or not and, if so, for how long
  • The reasons why you should be deported (criminal activity, overstay, etc.)
  • The specific statutory provisions that you are believed to have violated.

At a later date, you will be asked to admit or deny each of the allegations in the NTA.  Obviously, this document is very important and should be kept in a safe place.  Make sure to check that the biographical information about you in the NTA is correct.  You would not want future mail to go to the wrong address.

The NTA may be served upon you by hand or mailed to you or your attorney, if you have an attorney on record with ICE.  ICE also serves the NTA upon the immigration court responsible for your deportation proceedings.

The law requires that you be allowed at least ten days between the service of the NTA and your initial court hearing.  You can waive this 10 day rule if you like and you may want to do so if you are being kept in ICE custody.

What is “unlawful presence” and how does that lead to a 3 or 10 year bar?

In 1996, Congress passed a law and President Bill Clinton signed it which imposed harsh penalties on immigrants who had accrued unlawful presence.  The law went into effect in April of 1997.  Unlawful presence is any stay in the U.S. without explicit authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”).

If the alien accrues 180 days, but less than 365 days, of unlawful presence and leaves the U.S. before removal proceedings begin against them, they would have a 3-year bar, prohibiting them from returning for three years.  A formal grant of voluntary departure in order to constitute leaving before formal deportation begins.

An alien who leaves the U.S. after receiving a notice to appear (the mechanism by which deportation starts), is not subject to the 3-year bar according to the statutory language.  However, the alien must leave before he or she has accrued more than one year of unlawful presence, thereby triggering the 10-year bar.

The 10-year bar applies to any alien who accrues more than one year of unlawful presence and leaves the U.S.  Such an alien would be barred from returning to the U.S. for ten years from the date of departure.

Unlawful presence must accrue during a single stay.  The length of the alien’s unlawful presence is not calculated by including multiple unlawful stays in the U.S.

It is important to remember that the bar is triggered by departing the U.S.  This is true even if the alien has been authorized to travel through advance parole or a refugee travel document.  It is also important to keep in mind that some bars may be overcome with a waiver.

Waivers and bars are a complicated area of federal immigration law.  If you find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one have accrued unlawful presence, you probably want to speak to an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your case.

What is an immigration detainer?

An immigration detainer is the way that the Department of Homeland Security notifies state or local law enforcement that DHS believes someone in the custody of the law enforcement agency may be subject to deportation from the U.S.  The detainer is an actual form (Form I-247) used by ICE.  According to the regulations:

A detainer serves to advise another law enforcement agency that ICE seeks custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency, for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien.  The detainer is a request that such agency advise ICE, prior to release of the alien, in order for ICE to arrange to assume custody, in situation when gaining immediate physical custody is either impractacable or impossible.

The process usually works like this.  An alien or suspected alien comes into contact with local police.  After the person is taken to jail, they are asked for their place of birth.  If they were born overseas, the police notify ICE that an alien has been taken into custody.  ICE then makes determination, either by checking records or by speaking with the alien, as to whether the person entered without inspection (EWI) or is removable for some other reason and then sends the detainer form to the police agency.

An ICE detainer is supposed to last no longer than 48 hours.  Many state and local law enforcement officials are happy to hold aliens beyond the 48 hour limit.  This is wrong and illegal and the law enforcement agency should not be allowed to do it.  In certain circumstances, it might make sense to file a habeas corpus petition or false imprisonment lawsuit against the law enforcement agency when the hold last well beyond the 48 hour limit.

If you have questions about deportation or have a loved one who is subject to an immigration detainer, please call the immigration and deportation attorneys at the Hacking Law Practice, LLC to help.  You can reach us at (314) 961-8200 or visit our contact page here.

What is the phone number for the St. Louis Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) office?

If your family member was recently detained by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in Eastern Missouri or Southern Illinois, they are probably in the custody of the St. Louis ICE office.  The officers handling the actual arrest and removal of your family member are called Enforcement and Removal Officers.

Your family member will most likely be detained at a county jail.  Unlike other parts of the country, St. Louis does not have an immigration detention center.  Instead, immigration detainees are housed at local county jails, including Mississippi County Jail in Charleston, Missouri; Scott County Jail in Benton; Montgomery County Jail in Montgomery City; and, Lincoln County Jail in Troy.  Although this is where your loved one will be housed during their detention, they will actually be processed by the ICE officers at the St. Louis field office at 1222 Spruce Street, Room 1.100, St. Louis, MO 63103.  The phone number at ICE is (314) 244-9787.

Before you call that number, however, you should consider contacting an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in your loved one’s case.  Immigration laws are complex.  In addition, the job of an ICE officer is not to look after your family member’s best interests, but rather to deport him or her to their home country.  You owe it to yourself to at least talk to an immigration attorney before interacting with ICE.  Your family member may mistakenly give away certain legal rights, so it is important to get the assistance of an immigration attorney as early in the process as possible.

If you need to contact the immigration attorneys at the Hacking Law Practice, LLC, please click here or call 314-961-8200.

What are some common grounds for inadmissibility? Will the Department of Homeland Security ever allow for a waiver of any grounds of inadmissibility?

At the Hacking Law Practice, we see several common grounds for inadmissibility.  We address the most frequently seen inadmissibility grounds at our Missouri immigration firm and the chances for waiver below.

Fraud

If you have tried to obtain a visa, another immigration related document, or gain admission into the United States by fraud or by lying about a material fact, you are inadmissible for life. For this particular inadmissibility ground, there is a waiver available for noncitizens if they can prove that the inadmissibility results in extreme hardship to their United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) spouse or parent.

Another form of fraud that is dealt with separately is falsely claiming citizenship. False claiming citizenship can take a number of forms, including voting and getting any benefit related to citizenship. A false claim of citizenship also carries a lifetime bar. However, for certain unlawful voters, there may be a waiver available if the noncitizen lived in the US permanently prior to the age of sixteen and reasonably believed that he or she was a citizen.

Unlawful Presence

Unlawful presence is another common inadmissibility ground. A noncitizen is unlawfully present if they entered the United States without being admitted or at a location that was not designated for entrance. A noncitizen can also be unlawfully present if they stay in the country after the expiration of their temporary visa. If a noncitizen is unlawfully present for less than 180 days, there is no inadmissibility bar. However, if a noncitizen is unlawfully present for more than 180 days but less than one year, they are inadmissible for three years. Additionally, if a noncitizen is unlawfully present for more than one year, they are inadmissible for ten years.

For the unlawful presence bars, time does not begin to count until a noncitizen is over the age of eighteen. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes a waiver of these inadmissibility bars if a noncitizen can show that the inadmissibility would producean extreme hardship to a US citizen or LPR spouse, son or daughter.

Removal Proceedings

There are several inadmissibility bars that can result from removal proceedings. Failure to attend removal proceedings generally results in a five-year bar. Being ordered removed upon arrival (expedited removal) gets a five-year bar. Receiving a removal order at the end of deportation proceedings is a ten-year bar (you may face an additional bar depending upon what you are being deported for).

If you have been removed from the United States and you attempt to return unlawfully before your inadmissibility period is over, you will be barred for an additional ten years. If you leave the United States after receiving a Notice to Appear (NTA) and do not appear at the scheduled hearing, you are barred from entry for ten years. If you are removed from the United States more than once, you are barred from entry for twenty years. There is only one permanent waiver for the inadmissibility bars related to removal proceedings: noncitizens who have been removed from the United States can apply for a discretionary waiver from the Attorney General, which, if granted, will allow them to reapply for entrance into the United States. There is also a waiver for temporary entrance as a nonimmigrant but it is also discretionary.

Criminal Inadmissibility

Criminal inadmissibility grounds are among the most common and have the fewest waivers. Any noncitizen that has committed a crime involving moral turpitude (in any country) is inadmissible. There is an exception for noncitizens that committed the crime when they were under the age of 18 if the maximum penalty for the crime was less than one year of imprisonment and the sentence was finished more than five years before the visa application.

Also, any noncitizen with multiple criminal convictions for which the aggregate sentences have been more than five years is inadmissible. Any noncitizen that has violated a drug law of the United States, a US state or a foreign country is inadmissible. There is an exception for this inadmissibility bar if the violation was fifteen years in the past, admission of the noncitizen is not contrary to the national welfare and the noncitizen has been rehabilitated. Also, the violation can be waived immediately (subject to certain security restrictions) if the noncitizen can show extreme hardship to a US citizen or LPR spouse, parent, son, or daughter. The Attorney General also has the discretion to waive any of these inadmissibility bars for temporary, nonimmigrant visas.

What is deferred inspection and how should I respond to a request from Custom Border Patrol?

When you arrive at a United States port of entry and the inspector from Custom & Border Patrol cannot determine whether you are admissible, you may be granted something called deferred inspection. Deferred inspection is often given to noncitizens when they do not have documents that are needed to prove that they should be let into the United States. An inspector will decide to grant deferred inspection based on several criteria:

  • The likelihood that you will be able to prove that you are admissible
  • The types of documents that you are missing and your ability to get those documents
  • Whether you made a good faith effort to get the needed documents before you got to the United States
  • Whether they can verify your identity and nationality
  • Your age, health, and family ties to the United States
  • Other humanitarian considerations
  • The likelihood that you would appear for deferred inspection
  • The type of inadmissibility at issue (criminal, security-related etc.)
  • The danger to society if you were allowed into the United States

If the inspector thinks that you might be inadmissible because of criminal activity or think you may be a security risk, they will place you in expedited removal proceedings or allow you to withdraw your application for admission to avoid a removal order.

If you are granted deferred inspection, the inspector will give you an I-546 Form, which will tell you when you must appear for deferred inspection and what documents you need to bring with you. There are 70 deferred inspection sites. You can find the one closest to you by viewing all of the deferred inspection sites here.  The St. Louis deferred inspection site is at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in the East Terminal at Room E-1201, St. Louis, MO 63145.

Please know that you have to show up for deferred inspection. If you do not, you will be put in removal proceedings.

You are allowed to bring a lawyer with you to the deferred inspection if you get permission from the office where you will be inspected. It is important to speak with a lawyer before the inspection date to make sure that you have all of the documents that you need. Also, an immigration specialist will be able to tell you what to expect from you inspection and should be able to tell you if you have any reason to be concerned. If you have been granted deferred inspection and you would like to talk to an experienced immigration attorney, contact the Hacking Law Practice today at 314-961-8200 or by filling out the online contact form.

What is a crime involving moral turpitude?

There are two categories of criminal offenses that can affect your immigration status. The first is called a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). A CIMT sounds complicated, but what it really means is that the person committed a crime that tends to be committed by bad people. CIMT is left undefined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and is defined in the abstract by immigration authorities. This means that a whether a crime is a CIMT is determined by looking at the elements of the crime alone. If a particular crime has elements that are typically considered to be a CIMT, then the crime will be a CIMT. It is done this way in the statute to try to deal with diverse state criminal laws.

For the purposes of getting a visa to come to the United States, the INA states that anyone who has been convicted of a CIMT or who admits to committing acts that constitute the essential elements of a CIMT is inadmissible. This means that even if you were not caught or convicted, you could be inadmissible if you did something that would have been a CIMT. This section has one exception: if you were under 18 when the CIMT was committed, the end of your time in prison was more than 5 years ago, the crime’s maximum penalty was not more than one year in prison and you did not serve more than six months in prison, then you will still be admissible.

Crimes involving moral turpitude also come up in the context of deportation. If you are convicted of a CIMT while in the US and the sentence you receive for the crime is longer than one year, then you will be deportable if the conviction comes within five years of your most recent admission to the United States. The meaning of the term ‘admission’ is fairly complicated in the INA. It’s meaning will generally only become a problem if you have taken a long trip outside the US since the granting of your green card or other visa.

Like much of the INA, determining what counts as a CIMT can be complicated. This FAQ is only meant to provide a basic outline of these sections. If you are concerned about how these sections may apply to you, you need to discuss it with the immigration law specialists at the Hacking Law Practice, LLC. We have a wealth of experience dealing with immigration authorities to get successful results for our clients. Contact us today at (314) 961-8200 or by filling out our online contact form.

What is an aggravated felony?

There is a second type of crime that can cause you to be deported. This type of crime is known as an aggravated felony. The reason for the distinction between the two types of crimes is to deny certain exceptions or relief from deportation to immigrants who committed really bad crimes while they were in the US. There are a lot of aggravated felonies listed in the INA. These include murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug/weapon trafficking, and money laundering/fraud in excess of $10,000.

Also included are two umbrella crimes. The first are crimes of violence for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year. A crime of violence is any crime where force is used or threatened against a person or property. It also includes any crimes that involve the substantial risk that physical force may be used during their commission. The second umbrella aggravated felony is a theft offense for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year. This includes crimes like burglary and receiving stolen property, as long as the prison sentence is at least one year.

Like much of the INA, determining what counts as an aggravated felony can be complicated. This FAQ is only meant to provide a basic outline of these sections. If you are concerned about how these sections may apply to you, you need to discuss it with the immigration law specialists at the Hacking Law Practice, LLC. We have a wealth of experience dealing with immigration authorities to get successful results for our clients. Contact us today at (314) 961-8200 or by filling out our online contact form.

Does St. Louis have an immigration court?

Unfortunately, St. Louis does not have an immigration court.  Due to budgetary constraints, the only immigration court in Missouri is located in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Kansas City immigration court, which is known as the Kansas City Executive Office for Immigration Review, is located at 2345 Grand Boulevard, Suite 525, Kansas City, MO 64108.  The Kansas City EOIR currently has two judges – Judge Paula Davis and Judge John O’Malley.  The phone number is 816-581-5000.

For Eastern Missouri and some Southern Illinois immigration cases, if the alien is not currently detained, the case will be set for a master calendar (status) hearing and if the proper timely motion is made, the alien will be allowed to attend master calendar hearings with his/her attorney by telephone.  A physical appearance in Kansas City is still required for all individual merits hearings.  If the alien is currently detained, those cases are still handled by the EOIR in Oakdale, Louisiana.  This means that hearings occur over video conferencing from the Robert A. Young federal building downtown.

If you have questions about your immigration court removal proceedings, please contact St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking at (314) 961-8200 or by our Contact Us page here.

Does St. Louis have an immigration court?

Unfortunately, St. Louis does not have an immigration court.  Due to budgetary constraints, the only immigration court in Missouri is located in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Kansas City immigration court, which is known as the Kansas City Executive Office for Immigration Review, is located at 2345 Grand Boulevard, Suite 525, Kansas City, MO 64108.  The Kansas City EOIR currently has two judges – Judge Paula Davis and Judge John O’Malley.  The phone number is 816-581-5000.

For Eastern Missouri and some Southern Illinois immigration cases, if the alien is not currently detained, the case will be set for a master calendar (status) hearing and if the proper timely motion is made, the alien will be allowed to attend master calendar hearings with his/her attorney by telephone.  A physical appearance in Kansas City is still required for all individual merits hearings.  If the alien is currently detained, those cases are still handled by the EOIR in Oakdale, Louisiana.  This means that hearings occur over video conferencing from the Robert A. Young federal building downtown.

If you have questions about your immigration court removal proceedings, please contact St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking at (314) 961-8200 or by our Contact Us page here.