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What Will Happen At Your Master Calendar Hearing?

Getting around the complex rules of the US immigration system can be difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with the corresponding legal procedures. The Master Calendar Hearing is an important phase in the immigration process. Read on to know what it means, and what normally happens at this important event.

What is a Master Calendar Hearing?

A Master Calendar Hearing (MCH) is a crucial step in the immigration court proceedings of individuals facing deportation or removal from the United States. This hearing serves as:

  • The initial court appearance, where immigrants and their legal representatives meet
  • The time for an immigration judge to address the preliminary matters of their case

This is not a trial; rather, it sets the stage for future proceedings and decisions.

Key Objectives 

  • Setting a Timeline: One of the primary objectives of the Master Calendar Hearing is to establish a timeline for the immigration court proceedings. This includes setting dates for future hearings, which can be individual hearings or trial where the immigrant’s case will be heard in detail.
  • Legal Representation: Here, the immigration judge will confirm whether the immigrant has legal representation. If the immigrant does not have an attorney, they may be allowed to secure one or request more time to find legal counsel.
  • Charges and Relief: The judge will also address the charges against the immigrant and any potential relief or defenses they may have. This can include seeking asylum, cancellation of removal, or other forms of relief from deportation.
  • Evidence and Documentation: Parties may discuss the exchange of evidence and documentation. These pieces of evidence will be used in future hearings to support or contest the immigrant’s case.
  • Immigration Status: The judge may inquire about the immigrant’s current immigration status. This also covers any applications or petitions pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Administrative Issues: Any administrative matters, such as translation services or requests for accommodations, may also be addressed during the Master Calendar Hearing.

What Happens During a Master Calendar Hearing?

Now, we have a basic understanding of the purpose of a Master Calendar Hearing. Here’s what typically happens during the immigration court proceedings:

  1. Docket Number Assignment: Each immigrant is assigned a docket number, which is used to identify their case throughout the process.
  2. Roll Call: Immigrants and their attorneys are called to appear before the immigration judge. You must arrive on time, as failure to do so can result in negative consequences for the case.
  3. Initial Information Exchange: The immigration judge will introduce themselves. Then he/she will confirm the immigrant’s identity and inquire about legal representation. If the immigrant does not have an attorney, they may be given a list of pro bono legal service providers. Or, the judge may grant  additional time to secure counsel.
  4. Charges and Relief: The judge will inform the immigrant of the charges against them. Then, he/she will inquire about any potential avenues for relief or defenses. This is a critical moment for the immigrant and their attorney to present any relevant information or arguments.
  5. Scheduling Future Hearings: This will conclude with the scheduling of future hearings. These hearings may include a merits hearing where the immigrant’s case will be thoroughly examined, and a final decision will be made.
  6. Post-Hearing Procedures: After the Master Calendar Hearing, both parties may now start dealing with pre-trial procedures, such as gathering evidence, filing motions, and preparing for the upcoming hearings.

 

A Master Calendar Hearing is an important legal process in the immigration court procedure. It is where immigrants and their attorneys can address preliminary issues and set timetables. It’s vital to be prepared and to understand the charges and potential remedies. Immigration laws can be complicated, and having proper legal representation may determine the outcome of your immigration case.

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