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What You Should Know When Choosing An Immigration Trial Attorney

By Carlos Batara

At our first meeting, many of my San Diego immigration attorney office clients ask:

“Do I really need an immigration attorney for my court hearing?”

Let’s begin with the obvious. There is plenty at stake.

Your decision, whether to hire a lawyer or to handle your case alone, could make the difference – the difference between winning a green card and being deported.

My answer:

“Well, Maybe No and Maybe Yes.”


You don’t have to hire an attorney.

The law is supposed to be based on common sense, reason, and fairness.  If you can understand the little quirks of law, and you can properly organize your evidence, you could present your own case.

Of course, law, especially immigration law, is not that tidy.

So on the other hand . . .


Sometimes hiring an attorney is necessary.

Immigration law is not simple.  Even for college graduates, it is often impossible to accurately grasp what immigration rules mean. Court rules are often the most difficult to understand.

Going it alone, in most situations, is taking a big risk.

From my perspective, immigration law is a maze within a maze.

Certainly, the harder your case, the more likely you’ll need an immigration trial attorney.

Immigration Law is Not User Friendly

Today, perhaps more than ever before, immigration law seems heartless to immigrants trying to enter the United States.

Even if you have a case that looks easy, like filing an application for permanent residence, the law forces you to fill out form after form after form . . . and it is not unusual for battles with a callous bureaucracy to follow shortly afterwards. If you get stuck in this situation, having an immigration attorney comes in handy.

The New York Times recently described the ordeal of a Mexican attorney seeking to become a permanent resident of the United States.

Shortly after their marriage, his wife, a U.S. Coast Guard member, decided to immigrate him.  Their goal was simple: to live together as a family.

Two years later, seven different applications had been filed.  Several thousand dollars had been spent on filing fees the U.S. government.  Still, he lacked a green card – and remained miles apart from his wife and child.

He’s not alone.

Over and over again, hard-working and deserving immigrants wait years for their family visa and green card papers to be processed. Some cases disappear. Some run into technical snags. Some are denied based on government mistakes.

When your case involves going to immigration court, the need for professional assistance is often magnified.

As with immigration agencies, many immigrants experience a similar sense of being ignored, misunderstood, or mistreated when dealing with immigration courts.

Immigration judges and government attorneys do not give breaks.

Their jobs are to make sure immigrants prove why they should be allowed to stay in the United States.

You do not get special consideration for handling your case on your own.

Immigration Cases Require Compassionate Advocates

For immigration trials, the law demands that the judge learn as much relevant information as possible about your life.

What’s relevant information?

If you’re asking that question, you need the help of experienced legal counsel.

Many times an obscure fact in your background will be the tie-breaker between victory and defeat.  You may need to retrieve information you thought would never be needed again.You may have to search for evidence you would never have dreamed was important.

Everyone has some information that is not easy to share. You may have been abused by your spouse or parent.  Perhaps you were arrested for a juvenile prank.

These moments may be painful to recall.   Still, they must be shared. If you feel comfortable with your deportation attorney, you are more likely to be open about your personal history.

Your immigration lawyer needs to know the good and the bad to protect you. When you go to court, you do not want him or her to be caught off-guard by the government’s negative evidence against you.

“It is better to be safe than sorry” has special meaning when it comes to preparing immigration cases.

Having an attorney who cares and knows your history is not enough.

Your immigration trial lawyer must have the courage to stand up for you under any circumstances.

Your immigration trial lawyer must have the ability to challenge authorities by offering fresh interpretations of little known rules and court decisions.

A judge’s ruling, made last week in a state 2,000 miles away, may help your case – but only if your attorney knows about it.

The Bottom Line

Do you need an immigration attorney for your deportation case at immigration court?

Only you – you and only you – can answer this question.

However, if you decide to hire an immigration lawyer, two things should stand out:

(1) You must feel very comfortable with the person selected; you need to share personal and confidential information.

(2) You must feel confident in your lawyer’s ability to make a positive difference in your case.

If you’re still uncertain whether you should hire a lawyer or not, you may want to read our Deportation Defense Tip #2 and Deportation Defense Tip #3.