Defects in Notices to Appear and What They Can Mean to the Government’s Deportation Case Against You

Back in July, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling overturning a removal order in the case of a Salvadoran woman and her minor son. The ruling in favor of the asylum applicant represents just the latest in a series of appellate and Supreme Court rulings related to defective immigration notices, and points out how even very technical defects in the notices to appear the government issues may eventually help applicants avoid removal. Success in these matters often requires in-depth knowledge of the law and the procedural requirements, which is why you should definitely consult with an experienced Maryland deportation defense lawyer about your situation.

The applicant, A.A.L.-G., and her minor son entered to the United States from El Salvador without authorization. Immigration authorities detained them in Texas. At that time, the mother told a federal asylum officer that gang members in El Salvador had threated to rape her and kill her son as a result of her refusal to cooperate with the gang. The officer believed that the mother was credible and referred her case.

A few weeks later, in late May 2019, the government served a “notice to appear” before an immigration judge. In the space where the date and time of hearing should have appeared, the form said simply “TBD,” which would seem to mean “to be determined.”

The mother and her son moved to a residence in Burlington, North Carolina, then later to a different residence in the same town. The mother did not inform federal authorities of her relocation to the second address in Burlington. The Department of Homeland Security sent her a notice of a change of hearing location to the woman’s old Burlington address. In January 2020, the federal government held a hearing at which the woman did not appear. As a result, the judge ordered her and her son deported in absentia.

When a Notice Is (and Isn’t) Compliant With the Law

In this case, the appeals court explained that an asylum applicant can only be ordered removed in absentia if the government provided the applicant with “written notice required under… section 1229(a).”

Section 1229 lays out seven things that these notices must have to be statutorily compliant. One of those seven things is the “time and place at which the proceedings will be held.” The May 2019 notice didn’t satisfy that criterion. The insertion of “TBD” instead of an actual date and time meant the woman was not provided with notice in accordance with Section 1229 and that, in turn, meant that immigration authorities could not order her deportation in absentia.

Another thing applicants should know is that the law does not allow the government to “convey the statutorily prescribed information ‘piecemeal’ across multiple notices;” instead, the law requires the government to craft and serve a “single statutorily compliant document.” In other words, even if the immigration authorities had later sent this woman a subsequent document with the specific date and time, that still would not constitute compliance Section 1229.

A lack of success in your immigration case can often result in an order of removal. With such high stakes, it is well worth your while to get the strongest legal representation possible. The experienced Maryland deportation defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help. Deportation can mean a loss of a job, of relationships, and of your entire way of life. Our team is here to help you do everything possible to avoid that outcome. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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