What is Removal Relief?
One of the most terrifying experiences an immigrant family may face is to learn that a family member has been ordered to appear before an immigration judge on suspicion of being illegally present in the United States. This process usually begins with a “Notice to Appear” (NTA), which is the summons used by immigration courts. The NTA will provide a brief factual summary describing the government’s reasons for ordering the immigrant’s removal from the country. For example, it might allege that the immigrant entered the United States without being properly inspected and admitted, or it may allege that the immigrant overstayed the authorized period specified on the immigrant’s visa. Whatever the grounds for removal may be, the immigrant will have to appear before an immigration judge, face a government prosecutor, and answer to the allegations.
If the immigrant concedes that the allegations are true, which is very common, the immigration judge will likely permit the immigrant to apply for relief from removal. Removal relief allows the immigrant to stay in the country or leave without being subject to reentry bars. Various forms of removal relief exist, including asylum, withholding of removal, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, administrative closure, voluntary departure, temporary protected status, and relief under the Convention against Torture (CAT).
Nearly all forms of removal relief require the immigrant to provide supporting documentation. For example, young immigrants hoping to qualify for DACA must submit documentary evidence demonstrating their compliance with eligibility requirements, such as age, entry date, and continuous residence. Some types of relief will draw certain distinctions, and the respective eligibility criteria will fluctuate accordingly. Such is the case with cancellation of removal, where the law draws a line between lawful permanent residents (LPR’s) and non-LPR’s. The availability of other forms of relief, like voluntary departure, turns on the stage of proceedings and when the immigrant requests the relief.
Some forms of relief, like asylum, may require a low evidentiary threshold, as compared to the higher threshold required for withholding of removal. However, that lower standard is offset by a more stringent set of eligibility criteria. For instance, the immigrant must apply for asylum within one year of entry into the United States whereas withholding of removal has no such timeline. Also, if an immigrant is able to meet the criteria required for withholding of removal, the immigration judge is compelled by law to grant the relief. Asylum, on the other hand, is ultimately within the immigration judge’s discretion, as are other types of removal relief.
In sum, the various forms of removal relief are nuanced, complex, possibly time-sensitive, and pitted with exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions. Immigrants facing removal should immediately seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney who can best evaluate the immigrant’s needs and craft the appropriate request for relief.