Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) are part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”). I often get phone calls from people who do not know the status of their immigration case. EOIR has an 800# that can be used to check on the status of cases for individuals who are facing deportation. If you are in removal proceedings or have been in removal proceedings, then your information should be available on the 800#. The # is 1-800-898-7180. When you call, you will need to have your alien number. The 800 # is automated. If you follow the instructions, you can find out the following information: (1) the next hearing date; (2) if there has been a decision by the immigration judge; (3) if there has been an appeal to the BIA; and (4) if there have been any decisions by the BIA. Also, if you are seeking asylum, the 800# will let you know how many days have expired on your asylum clock.
A lot of people have misunderstandings about the purpose of free legal consultations with an immigration attorney. The purpose of a free legal consultation with an immigration lawyer is not for a lawyer to answer questions about how to prepare legal forms (i.e., naturalization and adjustment of status) on your own. The purpose of a free legal consultation is for a lawyer to meet a potential client to discuss the need of hiring a lawyer and what the lawyer can do for the potential client, as well as the cost of the lawyer’s services. If you are not looking to hire an attorney, you should not be scheduling a free consultation with an attorney.
Dealing with immigration issues is extremely difficult. I do not advise people to prepare immigration papers on their own. The fact that someone who is trying to prepare their papers on their own needs someone to answer questions is a sign that they do not know what they are doing and need to hire a immigration lawyer.
Today, the Supreme Court decided Chaidez v. United States. As a result of this decision, many people will be deported unfairly. Chaidez addresses issues that were left unresolved by Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010). In Padilla, the Supreme Court held that it violated the Sixth Amendment for a criminal lawyer to fail to advise a non-citizen about the potential immigration consequences of a proposed plea agreement. After Padilla was decided, many non-citizens facing deportation because of convictions began to seek to have their convictions overturned on the basis that they pleaded guilty without being advised about the immigration consequences of their conviction. An issue arose as to whether or not Padilla could be applied retroactively – whether the decision could be applied to criminal cases that occurred prior to the Padilla decision. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decided that Padilla should not be applied retroactively.
The reason that I say that Chaidez will result in unfair deportations is that if a non-citizen pleaded guilty before Padilla without being advised of the immigration consequence of their conviction, they will no longer be able to benefit from Padilla. This means that even though non-citizens did not understand the full consequences of pleading guilty, they are bound by their guilty plea. Thus, they can be deported for their conviction, even though they did not understand that they could be deported for their conviction. For something the Supreme Court found to be constitutional, it is terribly unfair.
When I do consultations, I often meet people who are ineligible for relief from removal because of their convictions. I always advise people in this situation to consult with a criminal lawyer about the possibility of having their conviction vacated. If a criminal lawyer thinks that the conviction can be vacated, then I will usually be retained to request that the Immigration Judge delay issuing a deportation order until there is a decision on the motion to vacate the criminal conviction. As a result of Chaidez, there will be less people that will be able to do this.