What you need to know if you applied for asylum in the USA and ended up in an immigration court
Those who apply for political asylum in the United States will have one of two possible outcomes: either they approve the application and issue a refugee card with the possibility of receiving a green card after one year, or the application is rejected and redirected to the U.S. Immigration Court.
When referring a case to court, the USCIS Immigration Service explains in advance that this will give the applicant another attempt to prepare his story from scratch, provide supporting documents and tell his story to the court.
If USCIS does not approve your application for political asylum, then the papers issued to you will have a summons with the date of the hearing you are required to attend. This is the so-called preliminary group hearing, or master calendar hearing (MCH).
Preliminary group hearing (master calendar hearing) - a short preliminary hearing in the immigration case, usually held at the beginning of the trial for the planned expulsion from the United States. The defendant meets with the judge and the US government side to discuss the details of the case. If the defendant has a lawyer, he answers most of the judge's questions.
During the preliminary hearing, other immigrants will be with you in the courtroom. When the judge proceeds to a new case, he will call the defendant by the applicant's last name and A number. The defendant and lawyer (if any) will come forward to speak with the judge. A representative of the US government (US Department of Homeland Security) also attends the hearing. The hearing of your case directly will last from 5 to 20 minutes, but, waiting for your turn, you can spend several hours in court.
The judge will begin the hearing of your case with simple questions to verify your identity and ask for your name, address, mother tongue and other languages that you speak fluently. If you came with a lawyer, he will represent your interests and answer most of the questions.
The judge will then announce the charges against you on the subpoena, and you will need to dismiss or agree with them. Therefore, it is important to carefully read the contents of the subpoena before appearing in court for a preliminary hearing. It is also necessary to inform the judge if the subpoena contains incorrect information.
If you applied for political asylum, then the charges usually include: date of entry to the United States, nationality, absence / presence of a preliminary inspection when entering the United States, exceeding the permissible length of stay on a visa, entry using falsified documents, etc. d.
The judge will ask you what kind of help you applied for: asylum, suspension of the expulsion procedure, voluntary departure, cancellation of the expulsion order or change of status. If you are seeking asylum, you must also apply for a suspension of the removal process (withholding of removal) and protection under the UN Convention for the Prevention of Torture.
If you are applying for political asylum, the judge will ask you to indicate the country of expulsion. As a rule, refugees do not indicate anything, since the basis for an asylum application is the fear of returning to their home country, and defendants never indicate their home country as the country of expulsion. Usually, the judge will automatically indicate the respondent’s home country as the country of expulsion.
During the preliminary hearing, the judge sets key dates:
1. The date of submission of the necessary applications, supplemented or modified information.
2. Date of next preliminary hearing, if required
3. Date of individual hearing
During the preliminary hearing, the judge sets the date for submission of written materials on the case, as well as the individual hearing (individual merits hearing), at which the essence of the case will be examined. During an individual hearing, a court-appointed translator is present.
In addition, if you do not have a lawyer, then at the first preliminary hearing the judge will give you a list of organizations that provide legal assistance to the poor and immigrants.
If you apply for political asylum and agree to an expedited expulsion from the United States, an individual hearing will be scheduled within 180 days from the moment you apply for political asylum, so you may not have enough time to prepare a detailed asylum application and all supporting documents for such short term. On the other hand, if you refuse the expedited procedure, then during the consideration of your application by the court you will not have the right to work. An expedited expulsion procedure is mandatory for detainees.
All deadlines set by the court must be observed. If you cannot find a lawyer, collect the necessary materials or submit documents on time, you need to ask the judge to extend the time limit or to postpone the consideration of the case.
On the subject: Supreme court tightens asylum rules for US immigrants
At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge will give you a new subpoena with the date and time of the next preliminary group hearing or an individual hearing.
Do not force yourself to communicate in English unless you are fluent in it. If you cannot easily understand a judge, a government representative or your lawyer, you can harm yourself and miss aspects of the lawsuit. Immediately tell the judge that you need a translator. The judge will call the translator by phone or postpone the preliminary hearing to another date, having appointed the translator in advance. For example, in California, Russian is a medium-spoken language, and as a rule, a translator must be appointed in advance, unlike Spanish.
In some cases, you can invite a volunteer or a professional translator to a group hearing, as the hearing is short and no details of your case are discussed. Later, at an individual hearing, the court will appoint you a certified court interpreter. You can’t come there with your translator.
If an interpreter is present at a group hearing with you, listen to the translation to the end, and then answer the question in your own language.
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