Musings on Immigration

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I Missed My Hearing in Immigration Court--Is Everything Over for Me Now?

No; but the reason you missed your hearing is important. Most of the time (at least in Atlanta, where our firm is), if a person does not show up to his or her hearing, the Immigration Judge will order this person removed (or deported). A person who is removed without having attended his hearing has an in absentia order and only exceptional circumstances will make the Immigration Judge reopen that person's case and continue proceedings. 

Examples of what can be considered "exceptional circumstances" are: lack of notice (the Court sent you a hearing notice in the mail but you did not get it and it is not your fault), ineffective assistance of counsel (your attorney at the time did not communicate to you the date of your hearing and as a result, you missed it), medical issues (for example, you happened to be in the hospital the day of your hearing and there was no way you were able to physically attend). 

How do you know if the Court did in fact mail you a copy of your hearing date? By reviewing your file in immigration court or searching your immigration history with the Department of Justice (the department that oversees the immigration courts). An attorney can help you with all this. If you had a bad attorney who did not tell you of your court hearing, talk to a second attorney who may be able to help you by explaining your situation to the judge (these types of motions to reopen--as they are called--are easily denied if you don't follow the specific guidelines set by the Court for them). Similarly, if you had medical issues and missed your hearing, an attorney can help you get your entire medical record and effectively argue to the Court that your case warrants a second chance in Court. 

On the other hand, if you missed your court hearing because you simply forgot, you changed your address but never notified the Court, or you simply did not want to attend your hearing, you may have a very difficult time getting a second chance in Court. People who have very sympathetic factors like sick children, U.S. Citizen spouses who have filed petitions, etc., may alleviate some of these negative factors. 

If you or someone you know missed a hearing in court, have him contact an attorney who can determine if reopening is an option.

Johanna Cochran, Associate Attorney

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