My First Immigration Court Hearing Part 1

My heart was racing when I first walked into the immigration court lobby. The place was packed with people who like me, had faced the wrath of the Immigration and Customs Enforcers (ICE). I couldn’t help but wonder what their individual stories were. We all looked sad, defeated, and scared. It looked like we were all going to a funeral, our funeral. The only people who seemed relaxed and chipper were the lawyers who had come to defend their clients. Later on in the course of the court hearing, I would realize that its not really wise to take a lawyer with you on your first court hearing.

Looking around, it was really hard for me to ignore the demographics in the lobby. Most of the people there were Hispanic. These didn’t look like middle class Hispanics either. There were also a couple South Asians, a lone Arab, about 5 Africans and not a Caucasian in sight…well, except for one lawyer. With our lives in upheaval, we sat there silently waiting for 8:30 am to arrive. Continue reading

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409,849 immigrants deported and counting…

In the year 2012 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced that they had deported 409,849 immigrants.

Wow! I guess for that ICE deserves an applause and a cookie. Jokes aside, I would like to congratulate ICE for lying to the American people. They lie that they are “focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens (whatever that means), with more on convicted criminals.”

If they really were doing that then why did they arrest me? I had no criminal record. I was in fact a law abiding human being whose only crime was that I was an international student who had fallen out of status. My arrest was a waste of tax payers money…come to think of it, I’m also a tax payer! ICE, it just dawned on me that you wasted MY money arresting me.

The last thing I want to do is make this post all about me so lets get back to congratulating ICE because clearly they deserve it. ICE, I wanna congratulate you for breaking apart and tearing apart friendships, marriages and families. I hope you sleep well at night. Congratulations also for kicking out mostly poor and needy people. People who are tired, poor, homeless, huddled, all yearning to breathe free. As a victim of your overzealousness I congratulate you.

There is very little justice in the current immigration system. It really needs to be done away with or reformed. It is my hope that one day real justice will prevail and all the 11.1 million plus illegal immigrants will get to live freely in this country without fear of being deported.

“The New Colossus” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus (1849–87)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

My Story.

Everyone who has ever been deported or is in deportation proceedings has a story. Some peoples stories are sad, others tragic, others are absurd. Mine my friend was the latter.

How and where did I get “busted”? Well, I’m embarrased to say that I was busted while I was using the bathroom. Yes, I was on the porcelain throne, the mighty John…I was in the crapper when a whippersnapper of an Immigration and Customs Agent (ICE) burst into my bathroom and asked me to show him where my hands were and step out of the bathroom. This guy had a gun, a badge and a mean looking face. This guy was the real deal.

I remember that day really vividly. Before that, ICE agents were to me an urban myth. A thing of legend. I had heard rumors that the immigration agents in Texas had been cracking down on international students who had overstayed their visas. For some reason I felt immune to the wrath of ICE but it turns out that my days were numbered. My day of reckoning had arrived I was about to be ICE’d. Continue reading

How to pick an immigration lawyer.

After you get caught your life will never be the same again. I was so traumatized after being visited early this year by  two ICE agents. It dawned on me the day after I was released from custody that I needed a lawyer.

I needed a damn good lawyer, one that would fight for me with every fiber of their being. Sadly, such lawyers are few and far between. My search for a lawyer took me all over my city. I even spent a fortune interviewing and consulting lawyers. I eventually found a lawyer who was a perfect fit for me.

Here are some of the things one needs to think about when finding an immigration lawyer who is the prefect fit for you.

1. Price: Most lawyers have a consultation fee. In my experience the fees start at $50. Sometimes the lawyer will subtract the consultation fee from the total bill if you decide to go with him or her. Make sure to find out if the lawyer is billing you by the hour or whether he or she has a flat fee. Be on the lookout for hidden fees.

2. Gender: Gender doesn’t matter. I know people don’t like admitting that they’d rather have a male lawyer instead of a female lawyer. Truth be told I have found female lawyers to be way, way on top of their game than their male counterparts. But that’s just my observation.

3. Free Lawyers: To me they are a myth, a legend, just like the unicorn or the mermaid. Don’t get me wrong, i’m sure they exist but i’m yet to see one in their natural habitat. I’m also sure they are a rare species because my guess is a lawyer’s got to pay the rent and like my hommie MC Ray Marcusi says; “Dude, ‘free’ don’t pay da rent!”

I think that when it comes to lawyers, you get what you pay for.

When you get your Notice To Appear (NTA), the kind and benevolent folks at ICE will include in it a page that has a free legal services providers list. Don’t even bother looking at it. It’s a waste of time. I researched the list and most of those organizations that were on the list weren’t helpful to me. Many are swamped with immigration cases as well as inquiries from people like you and me who want to be represented for free. My advise would be to bite the bullet and hire yourself a good immigration attorney, one who you can afford.

4. Reputation: I have heard so many horror stories of lawyers really screwing their clients over. It’s really heartbreaking. To some lawyers you are just a paycheck. The money you give him/her will probably go to buying a single meal at The Ritz Carlton or some other fancy restaurant. This person is going to be defending you. His defense will determine the course of your future so you better choose one wisely. Do your homework, ask friends  and family members if they know any good lawyers. Do your homework thoroughly as though your life depended on it because really it does.

  • Tip: After someone recommends a lawyer to you get online and Visit the State Bar Website of the state you live in. I live in Texas so my State Bar website is http://www.texasbar.com/.  Then click on the link for “Find a Lawyer.” Type in your lawyers full name or bar number into the search box and click on “Submit.” You will find almost all there is to know about the lawyer you are thinking of hiring.
  • Another Tip: Here is a site you can use to find a local immigration lawyer http://www.ailalawyer.com/

Why blog about my deportation?

Ok, I will be the first to tell you that I’m not a great writer. Yes, I’m no Hemingway. Because of that, from time to time my wording and sentence construction will be at par with that of a 5th grader.

That said, this is my online journal, in it are my views, my experience, my nightmare and if it helps even one person go through this nightmare of a process and come out of it triumphant I will feel like my blogging was worth it.

So here goes nothing….