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If you find yourself in the precarious situation of being summoned to immigration court, there are probably a million questions running through your head.
Immigration court hearings are civil administrative proceedings, not criminal cases. The immigration court deals with foreign nationals who have been charged with violating immigration law – for example allegedly being in the U.S. illegally. In these hearings, immigration judges decide whether you should stay in the U.S. or be deported. You can also be granted relief or protection from removal by an adjustment of status, asylum, or other remedies.
If you are in the Houston area the immigration court you are likely to appear in is the Houston Immigration Court.
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Yes – there is an immigration court in Houston. If you are based in the Houston area and need to appear in an immigration court, this is the court you’ll likely be summoned to.
The Houston Immigration Court falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge.
Immigration court hearings are civil (not criminal) proceedings. So you don’t have the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment for immigration court hearings. There is no public defender system for the immigration court system. However, immigrants who are represented by an attorney are much more likely to win their cases than those without lawyers.
If you are called to appear in the Houston Immigration Court, consider hiring an immigration attorney or visiting a legal services NGO to increase the chances of a successful hearing outcome. The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative is an NGO that provides legal advice for immigrants in removal proceedings at the Immigration Court.
If you have been summoned to immigration court, you can check the status of your immigration court case by calling 1-800-898-7180. When you call this number, you will be asked to enter your A number.
The Houston Immigration Court is located on Smith Street in downtown Houston. The court is located in two different buildings across the street from each other. These two buildings are the Continental Center and the Mickey Leland Federal Building.
You can enter the street address onto Google Maps and get directions to the buildings. The addresses are as follows:
Continental Center II
1801 Smith Street, 9th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
Mickey Leland Federal Building
1919 Smith Street, 6th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
At the 1801 Smith Street building, the lobby is located at street level. The elevator banks that are furthest from the staircase will take visitors to the court located on the 9th floor. When you visit the Houston Immigration Court keep in mind you will have to go through security and public health protocols when you exit the elevators.
At the 1919 Smith Street building, the lobby is also located at street level. There are two sets of elevators. One set of elevators will take visitors to the 6th floor and the other set will take visitors to the 14th floor. Here you will also have to go through security and public health protocols before entering the elevators.
Public parking at the Houston Immigration Court is available at a fee.
The Houston Immigration Court is open for filing and hearings from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. The court phones will be answered until 4:00 pm.
The Houston Immigration Court itself is open Monday to Friday except for federal holidays. The Office of Personnel Management published a list of the observed dates of every federal holiday by year. You can find this list published online.
When the Houston Immigration Court is forced to close due to inclement weather or another emergency, you can check their operating hours on their Twitter or Facebook accounts.
You can reach the Houston Immigration court by dialling:
These numbers should not be used to fax submissions. Submissions that are faxed will be discarded without consideration of the document or notice to the sender.
The Houston Immigration Court is situated in a federal building. When you visit the court, you are required to comply with the relevant laws or policies governing access to the building. Authorities may deny you access to the building or you may be asked to leave the facility if you do not comply with the protocols.
If you are unsure about any relevant policies or laws related to entry, it would be safest to contact the building or facility in advance.
When you go to the Houston Immigration Court, you will have to undergo a security screening through a metal detector machine as well as a handbag screening each time. The officials may even ask you to take off your shoes. You are not allowed to take food or drinks into the court. Cameras, video or recording equipment are also not allowed.
Strict public health procedures are in place at the Houston Immigration Court for your safety. You need to wear a face-covering in the building at all times. You will also be required to maintain social distancing (maintaining a distance of six feet from people) at all times.
The immigration court officers aim to maintain appropriate social distancing while best facilitating hearings. To ensure proper social distancing, court officials may ask you to move or leave a particular area. There is a good chance you will be assigned a specific seat and if you are instructed to sit in a specific place, don’t switch seats.
Waiting times to enter the building may be significantly longer than usual. Make sure you arrive at the building well in advance of your hearing so you arrive at the courtroom on time.
If you are based in the Houston area and need to appear in an immigration court, you are likely to appear in the Houston Immigration Court. This is where you will defend your claim that you are legally allowed to be in the U.S.
Remember, your claim is much more likely to be successful if you have legal representation. Even though immigration lawyers can be expensive, it could be worth it if it ensures a successful outcome. Where possible, hire an immigration attorney or reach out to legal advice NGOs.
Make sure you take careful note of where your hearing will take place. Although the buildings are not far apart, you will need to be in the correct building and the correct floor to make your hearing.
Finally, ensure you arrange to arrive well in advance of your hearing so you can navigate all of the security and public health protocols and still be in court on time.