The U.S. constitution guarantees fair treatment for all persons under the law. This means that any person, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to enjoy certain rights. One of the rights which immigrants get to enjoy is the right to have an attorney appointed as legal defense should the immigrant be charged with a criminal offense while in the U.S.
Deportation Hearings Not Criminal
Everyone in the United States has the right to an attorney if they are ever suspected of a criminal violation of law. With this in mind, it is important to understand exactly what a criminal violation is. Generally, a criminal violation of the law is one which carries with it the risk of loss of freedom if convicted. Therefore, anyone who risks the loss of freedom as the result of a criminal violation of law is entitled to free legal counsel paid for by the government. When they are accused of an offense which does not carry with it the risk of loss of freedom, like a traffic violation, individuals do not have the right to an attorney.
The Supreme Court has held that foreign citizens in deportation hearings are not entitled to legal counsel, which means that the government won’t pick up the tab if the foreign citizen is unable to pay for an attorney, because these hearings are considered administrative, not criminal. These hearings are considered administrative because the worst case scenario that a foreign citizen in a deportation hearing faces is removal from the country, but not the loss of freedom.
Attorney Representation Always an Option
Even if the government won’t pay for a foreign citizen’s legal counsel, it does allow foreign citizens facing deportation to retain an immigration attorney at personal expense, which is an option that immigration attorneys agree should always be exercised. Not only will the attorney speak on the foreign citizen’s behalf throughout the deportation hearing, but he or she will make sure that the immigrant’s rights are guarded throughout the process and that the foreign citizen understands his or her rights and the proceedings taking place.
Immigrants and America’s Legal System
Perhaps the most difficult part of navigating America’s immigration and legal system is the fact that it can be very complicated for the person without specific experience in immigration law to understand, and the fact that immigration policies always seem to be changing. For the most up to date information on the rights of foreign citizens in America’s immigration system, anyone with questions is encouraged to speak with an immigration attorney.
An immigration attorney is someone who works constantly in immigration law and who is regularly studying updates to immigration law as they occur. For the foreign citizen who is trying to avoid deportation, the knowledge and experience of an immigration attorney can be a very valuable asset.
Even though they may not face the loss of freedom in a deportation hearing, being deported to a country which the person has been away from for many years can cause just as much worry and confusion as being thrown in jail. If they want the best chance as possible to remain in the U.S., then an immigration attorney is someone that can help.