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Removal Proceedings

Removal proceedings is the process used by the government to remove a person from the U.S., either because the person is inadmissible or because they are deportable.  People sometimes refer to the process as "deportation."

Legal permanent residents can be placed in removal proceedings as well as people who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa.  The only people who cannot be placed in removal proceedings are U.S. citizens.

Typically, the proceedings are triggered by an event: a return to the U.S. following a trip abroad, the completion of a prison sentence, an arrest for crime, an application for an immigration benefit such as citizenship or replacement of an expired green card, the denial of an immigration benefit such as removal of conditional status or failure to maintain status, e.g. a foreign student dropping out of university. 

For individuals with old criminal convictions, a particularly harsh feature of immigration law is its tendency to change retrospectively.  Usually, these individuals were not deportable from the country, but subsequent changes to immigration law mean they are now deportable, even if the crime was committed 20-30 years ago.  If you are a long-time legal permanent resident with a very old criminal history, it is in your interests to have your criminal history reviewed prior seeking citizenship or traveling abroad. 

If the basis for removal proceedings is a criminal conviction, it may be necessary to re-open and amend the criminal conviction such that it not longer makes the individual removable.  Blackwell Law Group can handle that post-conviction relief in Wisconsin criminal courts only.  Convictions in another state must be handled in that state by an attorney licensed to practice in that state.

Removal proceedings take place in Immigration Court.  For Wisconsin residents, the closest immigration court is either Chicago or Minneapolis, depending on where in the state you live.

Immigration court proceedings are not criminal court proceedings.  Because they are not criminal courts, individuals have a right to an attorney but not one paid for by the government.

Removal proceedings are complicated legal matters with very high stakes.   A bad outcome means the you will be required to leave the U.S., which may force separation from your family.  For some individuals, they could be forced to go to a country where they have not lived for many years. 

There are ways to prevent removal, but they are not available to everyone.  The most common ways to avoid removal are through "cancellation of removal" and "adjustment of status."  For extremely old convictions, there may be "212(c) relief."  Your attorney will tell you whether you qualify for any of these benefits.

If an immigration court finds an individual removable and there is no relief available to prevent that, the court will order the person to depart the U.S.  There may be an option for voluntary departure instead of deportation.  Voluntary departure is not an order of removal and so does not bar a person from immediately seeking to qualify for an immigrant visa.

If you are not a U.S. citizen and have been arrested and charged with a crime, the best time to seek legal assistance of Blackwell Law Group is prior to the plea hearing in criminal court.  We will work with your criminal defense attorney to minimize the risk of a conviction that could later render you removable. 

If you have received a notice to appear in Immigration Court, you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome by retaining an immigration attorney to represent you.  Give yourself the best chance possible for staying here in the U.S. with your family and contact us to arrange an appointment to assess your case.

Blackwell Law Group, S.C. ●  700 W. Virginia St., Suite 307 ● Milwaukee, WI 53204 ● (414) 964-1900


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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.