Removal is a term that is used in immigration law that means basically the same thing as “deportation”. A non-citizen may become subject to removal for various reasons, such as committing serious crimes or violating their terms of stay in the U.S. 

In addition, the term “removal proceedings” is now the umbrella term for all deportation, exclusion, and deportation relief procedures. That is, previous distinctions between deportation and exclusion (not letting an alien into the U.S.) have been eliminated.  Instead, removal proceedings are generally the sole procedure when determining if an alien is deportable, inadmissible, or eligible for deportation relief. 

However, deportation/removal cases still account for roughly 80% of the workload of immigration judges.

What Types of Hearings Are involved the Removal Process?

If an alien is being charged with an alleged violation of immigration law, immigration authorities will serve them with a “Notice to Appear”. This is a document which initiates the hearings to determine whether or not the person should be subject to removal.  The notice to appear is basically an order requiring the alien to appear before an immigration judge.  It also informs the alien of:

  • The nature of the proceedings that they will be attending
  • A list of the alien’s alleged acts that may constitute violations of the law
  • The individual’s right to an immigration lawyer
  • The consequences of failing to appear at the hearing as scheduled

Once the person appears before the immigration judge, they may be required to participate in the following types of hearings:

  • General Removal Hearing:  This type of hearing usually involves two basic findings:
    • A determination of whether the foreign national will be subject to removal from the U.S. and
    • Whether they are eligible for any form of relief from removal
  • Bond Redetermination Hearing:  This type of hearing applies only to aliens who are being detained by immigration or homeland security authorities.  The immigration judge will decide whether to remove or lower the amount of bond set for the person’s detention.  These types of hearings may be appealed.
  • Withholding of Removal Hearing:  Here the immigration judge will determine if the alien is eligible for a “withholding of removal”.  This means that the actual removal of the alien will be withheld, delayed, or suspended for a period of time.  This usually occurs if there are administrative matters that need to be resolved before removal (for example, if the alien is currently involved in another legal proceeding).

Conclusions that are reached during hearings are generally final.  However, under some circumstances, unfavorable determinations may be appealed.  Appeals are directed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Do I need a Lawyer for Hearings during the Removal Process?

The removal process can often be a very complex and lengthy procedure.  Removal proceedings are important, as they will determine whether a person can legally remain in the U.S., or whether they will be removed from the country.  Therefore, it is to your advantage to hire an immigration lawyer if you are being summoned for a removal hearing.  Your attorney can inform you of your rights under immigration laws, which may be subject to change on a yearly basis.