The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Most immigrants who receive a Notice to Appear go to immigration court on their own. Only 37% of immigrants in general, and 14% of immigrants in detention, have an attorney. Immigration laws are complex, and without a legal advocate they are more likely to be deported.
The government does not provide free representation in immigration proceedings, but unauthorized immigrants have the right to obtain a lawyer at their own expense. You can find an experienced immigration attorney near you through the American Immigration Lawyers Association or the Directory of U.S. Immigration Lawyers.
There are also agencies that will help with free or low-cost legal counsel for people who can show they cannot afford an attorney. You can check the American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP) and the National Immigration Legal Services Directory.
If you are at risk of being detained, it’s wise to meet with an attorney in order to be prepared if you are arrested. Once detained, it may be difficult to find one before your initial hearing.
Be careful that you choose an attorney who specializes in deportation. A reliable attorney will review your Notice to Appear before discussing what options you may have. Always obtain a written contract from your attorney before paying their retainer fee. Keep the attorney’s contact information with you at all times, and make sure your family has it as well.
If you can establish a relationship with an attorney before the worst happens, you have a much better chance to get the outcome you want in immigration court. You will have a strong offense against the system with an experienced lawyer to mount a strong defense.
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