Know Your Rights -- Removal Proceedings in the State of Iowa
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS IN
THE STATE OF IOWA
A guide to knowing what your rights are as a detained immigrant in
I WAS ARRESTED BY IMMIGRATION….WHAT NOW?
You have a right NOT to sign any statements or documents, especially
ones giving up your right to a hearing in front of an immigration judge.
If necessary, say you want to speak to a lawyer first.
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used
against you later on.
You have the right to contact your consulate. The list of consulates
and their phone numbers should be posted in the jail. If not, get the
number from your deportation officer. Contact your consulate
immediately. If you leave a message, tell them your name, your “A
number,” where you were arrested, and the name of your deportation
officer. The consul may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or
provide other services.
Lying to an immigration officer can have serious consequences. You
should not lie to an immigration officer. Lying to an immigration officer
about your status carries serious punishment under the law.
WHAT IS A NOTICE TO APPEAR?
A Notice to Appear (also known as an NTA) is the charging document
that signals that removal proceedings against you have been begun.
If you receive an NTA, it means that you must appear in Immigration
Court on the date specified or at a date to be determined in the future.
The NTA must be served (given) to you personally or mailed to your
last known address or to your attorney, if you have one.
HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE BEFORE I GO TO COURT?
At least 10 days must elapse between service of the NTA and the first
scheduled court hearing. You may “waive” the ten-day notice
requirement, which means that you can go to court earlier if you want
You may want to waive the requirement if you were either refused a
bond or if you cannot afford to pay an issued bond.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY NTA?
You should review the NTA carefully to make sure that there are no
mistakes and that you understand the allegations against you.
It is important that you understand your NTA so that you can apply for
any immigration relief for which you may be eligible, and to meet
deadlines imposed by the Immigration Court.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON THE NTA
The NTA first lists your name, any aliases (other names) you may
have used, your alien registration number (also known as your “A-
Number”), date of birth, and address.
Make sure to review this information to ensure that it is correct, and
that there are no misspellings. An incorrect address on your NTA, for
example could mean that you do not receive important information
from the Immigration Court in the future.
NATURE OF PROCEEDINGS ON THE NTA
Directly under your address, the NTA lists three different statements, but only
one box will be checked off. The choices are:
(1) You are an arriving alien. This means that you have been stopped at the
border or port of entry and have not yet been admitted to the United States.
(2) You are an alien present in the United States, who has not been
admitted or paroled. This box would typically be checked if you entered the
United States without being inspected by a border agent or immigration
(3) You have been admitted to the United States, but are removable for
the reasons stated below. This statement refers to noncitizens who were
admitted to the United States for a period of time but are no longer authorized
to remain. Common reasons for this are overstaying your visa or a conviction
for a crime that renders you deportable.
NATURE OF PROCEEDINGS ON THE NTA
It is important to ensure that the correct box is marked. An arriving
alien (the first category) has extremely limited rights in removal
proceedings. People who entered the United States without being
admitted or paroled have fewer opportunities for adjustment of status
(i.e. applying for a green card) than those who entered lawfully. If the
incorrect box is marked, you will need to provide evidence in
Immigration Court to show that you have been classified incorrectly.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS ON THE NTA
The NTA will list factual allegations against you. Generally, the
allegations look something like this:
You are not a United States citizen or national of the United States.
You are a native and citizen of your home country.
You entered the country on a certain date and through a certain city and
whether or not your entry was authorized and if so, for what period of time.
The alleged reason(s) why you are removable. This could include criminal
convictions against you, or remaining in the United States beyond the
authorized period of time, or not having a valid visa to enter the United
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS ON THE NTA
The factual allegations form the basis for the charge of removability in
the following section of the NTA.
During your Master Calendar Hearing, you or your attorney will need
to either admit or deny each of these factual allegations.
CHARGES OF REMOVABILITY
The “Charges of Removability” is a list of the legal reasons why the
US government believes you can be deported from the United
States, including the immigration laws that you are alleged to have
Like the factual allegations, you or your attorney will have to either
concede the charges or deny them at your Master Calendar Hearing.
IF YOU DENY THE CHARGES OF REMOVABILITY….
The Immigration Judge may schedule a Contested Merits Hearing.
During this hearing, you will have to present the legal reasons why
you believe that you are not removable from the United States as
The government attorney will argue that the charges listed on the NTA
If the judge decides in your favor, removal proceedings may be
If the judge decides against you, he or she will sustain the charges of
removability and you will then have to prepare a defense from removal
and apply for any relief for which you may be eligible.
IF YOU ADMIT THE CHARGES OF REMOVABILITY….
You must inform the Court what your defense from removal will be, if
DATE AND PLACE OF REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS
At the bottom of the NTA it may list the date, time, and location of your
initial Master Calendar Hearing. If it does not, you will receive a Notice
of Hearing separately (this is why it’s so important that it has the
Do not forget this date, because if you fail to appear for a hearing, you
may be removed without your presence at court and you will give up
your rights to apply for relief from removal.
The NTA must also list important legal warnings, including:
Your right to be represented by counsel during removal proceedings, but at
no expense to the government.
The consequences of failing to appear for a scheduled haring, such as
receiving an Order of Removal in absentia
Your duty to notify the Court of any change of address during removal
Your duty to surrender to removal if ordered or to voluntarily depart if allowed
to do so
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The Certificate of Service will detail how and when the US
government sent you the NTA.
If there is a question about whether you were properly served with the
NTA (meaning if it wasn’t given to you personally or mailed to your last
known address), you should prepare evidence to show that you did
not receive it in the manner described.
WHERE WILL I GO FROM HERE?
While detained, you may be transferred to out-of-state facilities.
You could be transferred in the middle of the night, so keep a copy of
all your legal documents with you at all times. If your papers are
stored with the detention center/jail, ask the staff for your legal papers
immediately after you hear that you are being moved.
If you think you may be transferred to a detention center far from your
home, and you have an immigration lawyer here, your lawyer may file
immigration form G-28 with the Department of Homeland Security.
Fax the form to the Deportation Officer Immediately. This form may
convince the officer to stop your transfer.
DO I GET A TELEPHONE CALL?
You have the right to make a telephone call after you are detained.
Memorize the phone number of your attorney, family
member, friend, or union spokesperson, and contact him/her
Your phone calls may be blocked. If you have trouble reaching your
family or attorney, ask jail staff if they have blocked the number.
Also, have your family contact their local telephone company to make
sure that they can receive phone calls from the detention center or jail.
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY BELONGINGS?
When you are detained, immigration will register and mark all your
personal belongings. Ask for a receipt of your personal property. Your
property should be returned when you are released from custody or
Make sure your legal documents are not processed as “personal
property.” Because you want quick access to your legal
documents, always ask to keep your legal documents with you. If you are
unable to keep the documents, you have the right to access them at any
time. Ask the facility staff about accessing your legal material if they take it
away from you. Also, make sure that your family has a copy of all
immigration papers and legal documents (i.e. birth certificates, marriage
You have the right to request access to your belongings. These requests
should be written.
HOW DOES MY FAMILY FIND OUT WHERE I AM DETAINED?
If your family does not know where you are detained, they should
contact the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s
Detention and Removal Branch in the area. They should have your full
name and “A number” ready. Contact ICE headquarters at 202-305-
2734 if they do not know the number for the deportation office. This
information is also available online.
The ICE website also hosts a “detainee” locator. The web address is:
Tell your family to check the jail’s visitation rules. Some jails require
that you provide a list of visitors’ names ahead of time. TELL
UNDOCUMENTED FAMILY MEMBERS NOT TO VISIT YOU.
HOW DO I GET OUT OF DETENTION? ASK FOR BOND.
What is bond? A bond is an amount of money paid to the government
as a guarantee that you will attend all hearings and obey the judge’s
final order. You have to pay the full amount. Bond must be paid by a
cashier’s check or a bank money order, payable to the Department of
Homeland Security. The person paying the bond MUST have some
kind of immigration status and identification. He/she can pay the bond
at any ICE office.
Sometimes individuals are released without having to pay bond. This
is called “release on your own recognizance.” You must comply with
the terms of release, otherwise you risk being detained again in the
future. This is usually granted to individuals with special
conditions, like pregnancy.
You should always request a bond hearing. You may not be eligible for
bond if you: (1)Have a previous deportation order, (2) Have certain
criminal convictions, (3) Were arrested at the border/airport, or (4) The
government suspects you have terrorist ties.
You should get a copy of your criminal history and have an immigration
attorney with experience in deportation review it to see if you are eligible
for bond. You can get information from the County Clerk’s office in the
county in which you were convicted or from your former criminal defense
You can ask the immigration judge to lower your bond at the bond hearing.
The judge has the power to decrease the bond to $1,500.
During the bond hearing, you should submit any documents that show you
have a permanent address, stable employment, relatives with legal status
in the United States, and any evidence of strong ties to the community.
You should also ask family and friends to attend the hearing and to testify
to these issues or send letters of support.
WHERE DO I FIND AN ATTORNEY?
You do not have a right to a free attorney in immigration proceedings.
However, you have the right to obtain a lawyer at no cost to the
government. You also have the right to represent yourself.
Once detained, you will not have much time to find an attorney before
your case is completed, so it is very important to contact an attorney
as soon as possible.
Your deportation officer should give you a list of free legal providers in
the area. If not, ask for a copy right away. If these organizations are
not able to help you, ask them for referrals for immigration attorneys
who specialize in deportation.
Make sure to hire an attorney who specializes in deportation. Don’t be
tricked by people who are only after your money! Make sure your attorney
has a copy of your Notice to Appear before they make any promises about
what they can do for you. Request a written contract from your attorney
before paying him/her. This contract is called a “retainer agreement.”
Always keep the complete name and contact information of your attorney
with you at all times.
If you are not happy with your attorney, keep a record of your
communications with your attorney in the event you need to make a
GET A COPY OF YOUR IMMIGRATION FILE
Always ask for a copy of your file. You can send a formal “Freedom of
Information Act” request to the Deportation Office. You can also ask
the immigration judge to give you a copy of your file, or at
least, unfavorable evidence against you.
WILL I HAVE A HEARING?
If you do not get a hearing, find out why! You may not have a hearing
if you have certain criminal convictions, were arrested at the
border/airport, or received a prior deportation order. In some cases,
you may be able to challenge the reasons why you don’t have a
hearing. If you believe the court is taking too long to reschedule your
case, ask for a bond hearing.
WHERE WILL MY HEARING BE HELD?
It will be held at a local immigration court or a court inside the facility
or conducted through the television. In that situation, you must file a
“Motion” (request) for an in-person hearing. Regardless of whether
you have an in-person hearing, your attorney can appear at the
Immigration Court on your behalf.
WHEN IS MY HEARING?
To find out when your next hearing is scheduled, call 1-800-898-7180.
This is the automated hotline for the immigration courts. Have your “A
HOW MANY HEARINGS WILL I HAVE?
You will have at least one hearing. A “Master Calendar” Hearing is a
short hearing before the immigration judge. During this hearing, you
may ask the judge to postpone or “continue” the hearing to another
date to allow you to find an attorney.
If you don’t want to fight your case, you can ask the judge for
voluntary removal or deportation.
If you want to fight your case or ask for more time to find an
attorney, you will normally be rescheduled for another “Master”
If you are forced to proceed without an attorney, deny the charges
(this may force the government to prove the charges).
If you are applying for a way to stay in the United States legally, you will
have a separate “Individual” Hearing to present your case to the
immigration judge. You should bring any relevant documents and
witnesses to testify at the hearing. You may not receive an individual
hearing if the judge thinks that you are not eligible for any relief.
DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN INTERPRETER?
You have the right to an interpreter at your main hearing if you do not
speak English. Make sure that you or your attorney asks the judge for
an interpreter at the Master Calendar Hearing.
HOW DO I OBTAIN LEGAL INFORMATION?
Your law library should have information on immigration law and
procedure. Your detention facility should provide a list of legal service
providers. Additional services include:
Families for Freedom has excellent information for detainees.
2 Washington Street, 766 North, New York, NY 10004 (Phone: 646-290-
The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights package has excellent
Florence Project Main Office, 2601 N. Hwy. 79, PO Box 654, Florence, AZ
85232 (Phone: 520-868-0191)
The National Immigrant Justice Center provides legal services:
National Immigrant Justice Center, 208 S. La Salle St. #1818, Chicago, IL
POLICY AND TREATMENT STANDARDS
As a detention facility contracted with ICE, the Hardin County Jail
complies with federal standards concerning residential life and
treatment of detainees. You can find these standards in your ICE
National Detainee Handbook, which you should have received upon
being admitted to the facility.
REQUEST RELIEF FROM REMOVAL
It is the Immigration Judge’s responsibility to inform you of what types
of relief from removal you may be eligible for. If you have an
attorney, they will be able to give you a better explanation of what
might be available to you.
If you do not have an attorney, make sure to ask the Immigration
Judge, while on the record (in the courtroom), what type of relief you
might qualify for.
SOME TYPES OF RELIEF FROM REMOVAL YOU MAY
QUALIFY FOR INCLUDE….
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS
This is a way of changing from nonimmigrant to immigrant status in
order to get legal status in the United States.
Usually (among other requirements) you have to have entered the
United States legally to qualify for adjustment, but there are some
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS THROUGH “REGISTRY” UNDER I.N.A.
This is a method of obtaining a green card if you entered the United
States before January 1, 1972, and meet other requirements, which
include residence in the United States since that date, “admissibility,”
and “good moral character.”
This is a form of protection for people who have fled persecution or
fear future persecution in their home country, which allows legal status
in the United States, a work permit, and eventually a green card.
WITHHOLDING OF REMOVAL
Like asylum in many ways, however, withholding is more difficult to
obtain because you have to show that it is “more likely than not” that
you would be persecuted in your home country upon return.
It provides fewer benefits than asylum, because recipients are usually
ineligible to apply for permanent residence or travel outside of the
A person who gets withholding can stay in the United States and can
get work authorization.
PROTECTION UNDER THE CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE
Protection under CAT is available only if it is “more likely than not” that
your home country’s government – or some person or group the
government cannot control – will torture you if you have to return
It does not matter WHY you would be tortured; the fact that it is likely
that you would be tortured is enough.
Persons who receive CAT protection cannot ever get permanent
residence or travel internationally.
CAT recipients usually receive permission to remain and work in the
CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR NON-LPRS (LAWFUL
This is a method of getting a green card if you can prove that you
have been physically present in the United States for at least ten
years, and can also show that if you were removed it would cause
“exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship to your “qualifying
relative” (a spouse, parent, or child who is a United States citizen or
CANCELLATION UNDER THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
Similar to cancellation of removal for nonpermanent residents, the
applicant for VAWA cancellation must show that he or she has been
“battered or subjected to extreme cruelty” by a “qualifying relative” and
meets other requirements, including three years of physical presence
in the United States and good moral character.
Voluntary departure offers a way to leave the United States without
having a past order of removal on your immigration record, which can
make returning to the United States extremely difficult, if not
However, by requesting voluntary departure, you are also waiving
your right to have your case examined in immigration proceedings.
This is an agreement by the United States government to put your
case on hold. You do not receive legal status but you are not
It is applied on a case-by-case basis, except that procedures have
been formalized for certain young immigrants.
The U-Visa allows non-citizen crime victims and qualifying family
members to live and work in the United States for up to four years.
The visa is temporary, but its holders may become eligible to adjust
status to Lawful Permanent Residence after three years.
The T-Visa is available to victims of human trafficking. It allows victims
to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation of
prosecution of human trafficking.
WHAT CAN I DO NOW?
If you don’t have an attorney, refer to the detention facility’s list of
recommended legal aids and seek counsel accordingly. If you cannot
afford any of the agencies listed on the facility’s list, try contacting
Justice for Our Neighbors either by mail at:
Justice for Our Neighbors
2414 E Street
Omaha, NE 68107
Or by telephone at (855) 307-6730
While Justice for Our Neighbors cannot accept all cases, it provides
free legal consultation and services on immigration cases.
FIND OUT IF YOU HAVE A CONVICTION
Ask for a copy of your criminal record from the state where you have a
conviction. In Iowa, send the request form along with a check or
money order for $15. Each last name submitted requires a separate
request form with payment for each. You should also send a Billing
Form. You must be able to provide a government issued photo ID
(driver’s license, passport, etc.). Send the forms to: Criminal History
Checks, 215 East 7th Street, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319.
To ask specific questions about obtaining an Iowa criminal history
record check or to request forms, call (515)725-6066.
A declaration or affidavit is a sworn statement from someone that you
can give the Immigration Judge as evidence in your case. An affidavit
must be signed and sworn before a notary, but a declaration does not
need to be notarized. This means a declaration is easier for a person
to prepare than an affidavit.
WHO SHOULD BE A WITNESS?
Your witnesses should be in the United States legally.
Ideal witnesses include family members, employers, and counselors.
They might be asked about their criminal records; it is best if they do
not have a criminal record or only have minor infractions.
WHAT SHOULD MY WITNESSES TALK ABOUT?
Your witnesses should talk about the positive (good) things in your
Your family ties to the United States, particularly spouses, children, or parents with legal
status. Include long-term boyfriends or girlfriends or other lawful family members.
Length of time you have lived in the United States.
Ability to speak English.
Lack of knowledge of language and customs in your home country (useful if you have
spent most of your life in the United States)
Hardship on you and your family if you are removed
Military service for the United States
Payment of income tax in the United States
Property or business ties in the United Stats
Service to your community or volunteer work in the United States
Rehabilitation programs (if you have a history of substance abuse)
In the immigration courtroom you will see the immigration judge’s bench in
the middle of the room, two tables facing the bench, and a row of benches
behind the tables. The table on the judge’s left is generally where the
government attorney (AKA the “trial attorney” or “DHS attorney” or “ICE
attorney”) sits. The table to the judge’s right is reserved for the Respondent
(you) and his or her attorney. There is sometimes a third table for an
HOW DO I ACT IN THE COURTROOM?
The judge may ask if you are comfortable speaking and understanding
English. If you are not, the judge may hear your case on another day when an
interpreter is available, or he may use an interpreter by phone. You have a
right to a good interpreter.
When you speak to a judge, always address him or her by “Your Honor” or
“Judge.” Wait until he has finished talking and then answer any questions he
asks you. Never interrupt the judge or raise your voice at anyone in the
courtroom. Speak loudly and clearly and if you do not understand
something, politely ask the judge to explain it to you.
HOW TO ADDRESS MAIL
First Line: Name of Person/Office/Organization
Second Line: Street Address (Building number, street
name, apartment/suite number if applicable)
Third Line: City, State 5 digit zip code
National Immigrant Justice Center
208 S. La Salle St. #1818
Chicago, IL 60604
IF YOU HAVE A CRIMINAL CONVICTION
Only certain criminal convictions lead to your deportation. Some of the main
(1) Aggravated Felonies.
(2) Drug Conviction.
(3) Crime of Moral Turpitude.
(4) Firearms Conviction.
(5) Crime of Domestic Violence
(6) Other Criminal Activity
Further, if your criminal conviction is on appeal and it is not final, therefore
you cannot be deported. If you filed a habeas corpus petition, or a motion to
vacate your criminal conviction, the conviction is final and the government
can deport you while you wait for a decision.
You may be deported before you have finished serving time in prison. Some
people may be able to finish serving time in a prison in their home country.
You can request a transfer by filling out a Transfer Request Application Form
with your case worker in prison. An official from your home country consulate
may also be able to advise and assist you in the process. A federal magistrate
will hold a hearing on your request and ask you if you agree to the transfer and
agree to give up all rights to appeal or attack your conviction.
If you are transferred to your country before you have an Immigration Court
hearing, you will lose the chance to go before an Immigration Judge and ask
the judge to excuse your criminal conviction and remain in the United States.
This means that if you have a conviction for certain crimes, including an
aggravated felony, you will lose the right to live permanently in the United
States. You will never be able to return to the United States, except for short
visits, even if you are married to a United States citizen and have children in
the United States.