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Question: I was just placed into deportation proceedings and believe I can represent myself and prepare the forms and petitions myself. Do you see any reason that I should have an attorney?

Answer: First, what you have to realize is that unlike criminal proceedings, you have no constitutional right to an Immigration Attorney. Thus, one will not be appointed to you. Next, you have to realize that the Immigration Judge and the Trial Attorney (who represents the government) are not there to help you. They have thousands of cases in front of you and have thousands of cases behind you. You are just a number to them. While there may exist a duty on the Immigration Judge to let you know what you qualify for in order to obtain relief, the Immigration Judge, nor the Trial Attorney will submit, prepare or help with any petitions that you would submit.

Question: What are the basic phases I must be concerned with in Deportation Proceedings?

Answer: First, you will be served with a Notice to Appear. This is the charging document that basically will list all the charges against you and on what basis Immigration believes that you are removable from the United States. The first hearing could be a Bond Redetermination Hearing if you are in detention. Next, would be the Master Calendar Hearing which is a short, but very important hearing. This hearing will essentially determine the path that the rest of the deportation case will take. It is where the allegations are admitted or denied and the particular form of relief is discussed. If any allegation has been denied, then there will be a follow-up hearing known as a contested Master Hearing where the purpose of that hearing is only to determine whether the allegations in the Notice to Appear should be sustained by the Immigration Judge. Next, assuming removability has been established by the Immigration, then the Immigration Judge will give an opportunity to submit petitions for relief such as Asylum, Withholding of Removal, Registry, Convention Against Torture, Adjustment of Status and/or Cancellation of Removal. Thus, the next Court date will be to submit those packages of relief. Finally, after everything has been submitted and all pre-legal issues are resolved and ruled upon, the case will be set for an Individual Hearing. This is where there will be trial on the matter(s). This is where you will testify and all your witnesses will be present as well as any experts. At the end of the trial, the Immigration Judge will either rule from the Bench or bring you back to another hearing in order to read the Ruling on the case.

Question: What if I do not know what to do?

Answer: Good question. This is why you should retain an Immigration Attorney. The Immigration Attorney should have experience in Removal/Deportation Hearings and not just business visas or family visas for example. Be sure you ask. It would be very important to get a good Immigration Attorney because we are not talking about a debt or minor dispute. We are talking about the fact that if you lose, that ICE can forcibly remove you from the United States.

There is nothing more important than staying together with your family not being removed from the U.S. Do not try to do this yourself. Get someone who is an expert and knows what they are doing. A small investment for the rest of your life.
Brian D. Lerner is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the California Bar Board of Legal Specialization and he is admitted to the United States Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Circuits. Mr. Lerner handles all types of immigration cases, but does a significant amount of deportation cases. As a deportation attorney, he is able to apply for many types of relief in Immigration Court, such as Cancellation of Removal, Asylum, Convention Against Torture, Adjustment of Status and more. Office in Long Beach and clients all over the State of California. Please call (866) 495-0554 for a free consultation or e-mail Brian D. Lerner at

Home » Immigration Updates » Why do I need an Attorney in Deportation Proceedings?

Why do I need an Attorney in Deportation Proceedings?