Restraining orders can be a headaches for United States citizens. But for immigrants, restraining orders can be a nightmare, and can threaten their legal status in the country.
Here, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about restraining orders, and how they could have affect your status in the US. We’ll also show you what your options are if you want to get the restraining order removed.
Restraining orders, legally known as injunctions for protection, are a common way for victims of various forms of abuse to protect themselves. But they can also easily be exploited to gain leverage on non-United States citizens.
Judges are often not very selective when it comes to handing out restraining orders. They may issue one based solely on the word of the petitioner. The benefit of this is that it can protect vulnerable people by making it easy for them to obtain legal protection. The downside is that it also makes it easy for those who want to exploit the system by obtaining a restraining order even when they have no grounds to.
If a restraining order is obtained against a non-United States citizen, any violation of this injunction can lead to their deportation. That means they’ll be walking on a tightrope. And the violation doesn’t need to be followed by a conviction for immigration officials to order deportation.
An injunction is simply a legal order that tells you to do or not to do things. Often, the order is to avoid another person, and will command you not to go within a certain distance of them.
Getting an injunction is fairly straightforward. You go to the courthouse and fill out a form, saying that you believe that you are currently threatened or will be in the future by another person.
Often, an injunction will be given based just on the words of the accuser. Once the paperwork is submitted, a judge will often file a temporary restraining order to be followed by a hearing.
If your case goes to a hearing, the judge will listen to the testimony of all the parties involved in a case, including witnesses. Judges often play it safe and issue the injunction if they see even the faintest sign that one of the parties may be threatened.
If you are a non-citizen, this low bar of evidence for a restraining order can be a significant threat to your legal status.
Unfortunately, there are people that use injunctions to gain leverage over non-citizens. They may know that any violation of this order could risk deportation for the non-citizen, and use this as a threat.
The first thing that you will want to do if you are a non-citizen is petition for the injunction to be removed. You’ll have to present evidence that the person who petitioned for the injunction no longer, or never did, have any reason to fear for their safety. If a judge believes that to be the case, they will remove the restraining order.
You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, as even a small violation of an injunction could threaten your legal status and risks deportation. Violations of injunctions related to domestic violence can often lead to immediate deportation, even without a conviction.
For those who have lived in the United States for more than 10 years without documentation, a violation of an injunction could threaten the status of a judge ordered cancellation of removal. A cancellation of removal is a type of relief given to those undocumented non-citizens who have lived in the United States for more than 10 years. But if you have violated a restraining order, this relief may no longer be valid, and your deportation may proceed.
If you are a non-citizen who has received an injunction, one of the first steps you should take is to contact an experienced immigration lawyer. You’ll need to know how the restraining order could impact your legal status, and what steps you can take to remove the injunction.