Removal proceedings in the United States are a complicated process, and it can take a lot of time and money to combat these charges. The “merits” hearing, or more commonly known as the “individual” hearing, is the last and most important step in the deportation process. You will have an opportunity to argue your case for remaining in the United States at your individual hearing.
Although a successful individual hearing may mean the end of your removal process, an unsuccessful hearing may lead to deportation.
What Is a “Merits Hearing”?
The most important part of the removal process is a merits hearing. This hearing gives non-citizens the opportunity to present arguments directly to an immigration judge and to defend their right to stay in the country. If an immigrant fails to make a valid case, the hearing may end with their deportation.
Preparing for Your Merits Hearing
When preparing for your merits hearing, you need to find and hire an attorney to represent you. Unlike criminal proceedings where the court appoints an attorney for you, you are responsible for getting your own attorney in immigration court merits hearings. You also need to prepare any relevant paperwork and witnesses that can help support your case.
What to Expect During a Merits Hearing
Depending on the specifics of your particular case, a merits hearing can proceed very differently. Most hearings, however, start with the court assigning an interpreter to you.
The court will then review all official documents, applications, and petitions important to your case. You can then typically correct any errors and sometimes you may submit additional supporting documentation. Normally, all documentation needs to be submitted to all parties 15 days prior to the merits hearing in order for them to be considered by the court. Make sure you have completed and submitted all of your paperwork before your hearing to avoid complications during this step.
Next, you will present your argument together with your lawyer. The immigration judge and/or a lawyer from the Department of Homeland Security may ask you further questions during this process. You can also ask any witnesses to testify on your behalf. If this happens, respond as fully and truthfully as possible.
Lastly, the immigration judge will allow both sides to make a closing statement. The immigration judge will then make a decision on your case.
Seek Legal Assistance
Hiring a lawyer is the best way to prepare for your merits hearing. It will be very hard to make a strong case at your hearing without a lawyer, so contact our team at (956) 412-0707 to see how we can help you.