If you’re an immigrant in Texas and you’re facing deportation, you always have the right to an attorney. However, you may not have right to removal proceedings.
Garry Davis, a Dallas immigration attorney with Davis & Associates. “They have the right to an attorney, but generally they don’t have a right to see a judge to try to challenge their deportation.”
Raed Gonzalez, a Houston immigration attorney with Gonzalez Olivieri, says that if the police stop and ask about your immigration status, you’re not obligated to answer. “You have a right to remain silent,” he says, “though you do have to identify yourself.” With your name and date of birth, though, the police may be able to learn if you have had any arrests, are pending any orders of arrest and if you have a warrant out for your deportation. If you get arrested, Gonzalez states you don’t have to say or sign anything without an attorney’s advice.
According to Davis, many factors may create an option to survive deportation, including having no serious criminal record, seeking political asylum, and having a spouse, parent or child that’s a citizen or permanent resident. An immigration attorney can walk you through your various options for staying in the United States; some immigrants waive their rights to a hearing if they know they have no options, rather than remaining detained.
If you are detained in Dallas, it’s an approximate two month wait to get a trial. In Houston, Gonzalez says detainees have to similarly wait weeks for a hearing. “It’s a tragedy that anybody has to wait so long,” he says. Both Gonzalez and Davis agree that courts in Texas are so backed up, in part, because of referrals from the border patrol. Those seeking asylum claims at the Texas border are detained, and therefore get priority treatment.
Most of Davis’ clients aren’t detained, though they are facing removal. Trials for immigrants who aren’t detained are being set, in Dallas courts, for 2020. Many of Gonzalez’s current clients have fled violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in the past few years; their trials are finally coming up in 2017 and 2018, but some are scheduled as far out as 2020.
If you’re an immigrant awaiting a deportation hearing and you get arrested, you still have the right to an attorney—though your custody status may change. “For example, if you get convicted of a drug possession charge, or a pretty serious domestic violence case, it may not go as well for you as it would have without the arrest,” says Davis.
And, whether you’re facing deportation or not, it may be helpful to speak with an immigration attorney. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” says Gonzalez. “A lot of people are in a panic. People are afraid. Even U.S. citizens are calling me; they’re concerned that they will be affected. So just imagine how much misinformation is out there when naturalized citizens, who have nothing to worry about, are coming for consultations because they’re worried about their status.”