Understanding Motions to Suppress in Removal Proceedings

Understanding Motions to Suppress in Removal Proceedings

Even if you are not a citizen of the United States, you still have rights in this country that are protected by the Constitution as well as other laws and statutes like the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unfortunately, all too often federal immigration officers will disregard these rights in dealing with noncitizens, particularly with regard to gathering evidence to justify deportation.

However, if you are facing removal proceedings and your constitutional rights were violated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, then you may have recourse to prevent the government from using illegally obtained evidence against you, which could help prevent your deportation. When did ICE violate your rights? For example, if they arrested you with no legal justification (e.g. only because you look latino), that is illegal because it is race based and constitutes discrimination. Also, if immigration officers are coercive, and force you to say things against your will, or force you to sign statements against your will, than they have violated your rights! Further, if immigration officers enter your home without permission and without a warrant, that is a violation of the US Constitution! The recourse against these violations is known as a "Motion to Suppress." The purpose of a motion to suppress is to exclude evidence, whether physical, documentary, or testimonial, from a trial or hearing against you in cases when the evidence was obtained in a manner that violated your rights. The goal is to prevent the government from meeting its burden of proof required to have you deported. Motions to suppress are allowed under the "exclusionary rule," which is a legal principle stating that evidence that was obtained or analyzed in violation of a defendant's rights may inadmissible for criminal prosecution. While removal proceedings are civil in nature (which is a whole different problem to be discussed), court precedents have been set that allow the exclusionary rule to apply under some circumstances in immigration court. There are two situations for which a motion to suppress may typically be filed: an egregious violation of your Fourth Amendment or Fifth Amendment rights--specifically, the Due Process Clause. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. This means, in order for agents to search you, your residence, your vehicle, etc, and for them to seize evidence, they must have probable cause to do so. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment states, "No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." For the purpose of deportation, this means the removal proceedings and actions against you must be "fair." Violations of due process can be more difficult to prove than Fourth Amendment violations, but they can apply before or after an arrest was made. Motions to suppress can be extremely complicated and difficult to prove, but with the help of a knowledgeable immigration attorney like Otis Landerholm, you may be able to prevent the government from presenting damning evidence that could result in your deportation. If your rights have been violated by ICE and you are facing removal proceedings, please contact Landerholm Immigration and let us fight to defend your legal rights.
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