Going to Immigration Court can be a stressful, scary experience. Here are a couple of things about Court that may help you feel a little more prepared. Please note that there are many different Immigration Courts in the United States and each Court may be a little different. These tidbits relate specifically to the Bloomington Immigration Court in Minnesota.
1. MASTER CALENDAR V. INDIVIDUAL
A Master Calendar Hearing is the first type of hearing you will have. This is a shorter hearing in front of the judge during which the judge will decide if you are subject to removal proceedings and ask you what relief you will be seeking. These hearings are usually short and lots of people will have Court at the same time as you. You may have more than one Master Calendar Hearing.
If you are seeking some form of relief and the Judge accepts your application for review, then the Judge will typically set your case to an Individual Hearing. During the Individual Hearing, you will have a chance to tell your story. The Department of Homeland Security and the Judge will also ask you questions. These hearings tend to be several hours long.
2. ARRIVING AT COURT
If you have a Master Calendar Hearing, your hearing will be in the morning or afternoon depending on the day of the week. Your Notice of Hearing will tell you what time you need to be at the Court. This does not mean that your hearing will start at that time. Many people are scheduled for a Master Calendar Hearing each day. The Judge will first take cases where the person has an attorney. Once those cases are done, the Judge will take the cases where the person does not have an attorney. Although your hearing notice may say that you have Court at 9:00am, you may not see the judge until 10:30am or later, depending on how many people have hearings. It is best to prepare for a long wait and to get there early. You do NOT want to miss your hearing as there are many BAD consequences.
If you have an Individual Hearing, you MUST arrive at the Court before the time listed on your hearing notice. This hearing is just for YOU, so it will start at the time listed on the Notice of Hearing.
Remember, when you go to Court, you must go through a metal detector. Make sure you have enough time to go through the metal detector before your hearing and that you don’t bring anything to court that would be considered to be a weapon (including a pocket knife), contraband (drugs or drug paraphernalia), or anything otherwise prohibited.
3. SIGN IN AT COURT
After you go through security, you must sign in at Court. If you have an attorney, you do NOT need to sign in. If you do NOT have an attorney, then you must write your name and the last 3 numbers of your A# (alien number) on the sheet on the bulletin board. Your A# is written on your Notice of Hearing or Notice to Appear. After either you sign in or your attorney signs in, you sit and wait for the Court Clerk to call your name.
The Court Clerk will use the sign in sheet to see who will go into Court first. Remember, attorneys go before people without attorneys.
4. DRESSING FOR COURT
This is an important day in your life, so you should dress appropriately. Try to wear a nice outfit like khakis, dress pants, button down shirts, a nice skirt or dress. Nothing too short or too tight and no hats. You should dress like you would dress for a job interview. You want the Judge to see that you are a nice, respectable person.
5. BRINGING FAMILY
It is ok to bring family to Court BUT there are two groups of people who should not come to Court unless the Judge asks for them.
First, do not bring small children or babies. You may have to wait at Court several hours before you see the Judge. If your child is crying, being noisy, or running around, the Court Clerk will ask you to take the child out of the waiting area. Unless the Judge specifically asks you to bring your child to Court, they do not need to see your child.
Second, do not bring any family member that does not have legal status in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security can ask people what their status is and if your family member does not have status, they can be put in removal proceedings.
6. MY FAMILY MEMBER IS DETAINED
If your family member is detained, then you typically will go to Court at 2901 Metro Drive, Bloomington, MN. After you go through security, you will go to the basement and go to the right. The detained courtroom at the current location is very small. Only 3 family members will be able to go into the courtroom. Additionally, family members are typically not allowed to visit with their detained family member or touch their family member. This can be difficult for children who do not understand why they cannot hug their mom or dad. For that reason, it is suggested that young children and babies do NOT come to Court.
For some detained Individual Hearings, you will be in the normal courtrooms at 7850 Metro Parkway, Bloomington, MN. If you are unsure where to go for the detained Individual hearing, go to 7850 Metro Parkway and ask at the front window.