Pleadings are your response to the allegations and charges brought against you by The Department of Homeland Security in the Notice to Appear.
Pleadings are usually done at your first hearing in immigration court unless you request more time to obtain an attorney. I would strongly suggest that no person in removal proceedings attempt to go forward with their case pro se, that is, without an attorney. Statistics show that respondents in removal proceedings who are unrepresented by an attorney have much higher denial rates than those who hire an immigration attorney.
If you are an attorney and you are representing a client in immigration court you should be prepared to do pleadings at the first hearing so long as you have had adequate time to review the Notice to Appear and review the case with your client.
The first step in pleadings is to either concede proper service of the Notice to Appear or to deny proper service. If there are no issues with the Notice to Appear and your client was properly served with the Notice to Appear then you would likely concede proper service.
The Notice to Appear will state the allegations against the Respondent. These are facts that the Service are alleging to be true. The allegations will be presented in a numbered list. Typically the first allegation will be that the respondent is not a citizen of the United Sates. The respondent is a native and citizen of country X. The respondent entered the US on an unknown date at an unknown location. These are examples but the factual allegations will obviously depend on the facts of your case.
You must either admit or deny the factual allegations. For instance you may admit allegations 1 and 2, conceding your client is not a US citizen and is a native of country X but then deny allegation 3. If you were to deny allegation number 3 then you who state that you intend to present evidence that your client entered on ___ date at ____ location.
Below the factual allegations are the legal charges of inadmissibility or removability. These will cite the statute that the Service is charging your client with violating which make him removable. You can either admit or deny removability as charged. If your client is a lawful permanent resident then the burden of proof is on the Government should you would never admit removability as charged. If your client is undocumented and has status in the US you may concede removability as charged since your client has the burden of proof and there is no evidence your client is not removable as charged. You would concede removability in order to submit an application for relief.
If your client is charged with removability based on criminal issues you will want to deny the charges so you may research and present arguments as to why your client’s criminal issues do not have the immigration consequences charged.
The Immigration Judge will ask you to designate a country of removal. It is customary to “respectfully decline” to do so. The Service will then designate the country of removal to be your client’s country of citizenship. Declining to designate a country of removal is especially important if your client intends to pursue asylum or withholding of removal.
You would then state all forms of relief you are seeking. It is important to state all forms of relief that are being sought because those that are not stated will be deemed waived. Remember that you always want to keep voluntary departure as an option.
Some Immigration Judges require written pleadings. If so you will fill out a form in the Courtroom. If the Immigration Judge requests that you submit written pleadings at a later date then you should follow the Immigration Court Practice Manual sample of written pleadings.
Make sure you consider all avenues of relief available and that you thoroughly review the case before making pleadings.