“Cancellation of removal” is a defense to deportation for permanent residents who are at risk of losing their green cards. If successful, the applicant is not deported, and instead keeps her green card (permanent residence).
To win, the applicant must prove:
- That she was “lawfully admitted for permanent residence.” This defense is not available for people who received their green cards through fraud or error.
- That she has been a permanent resident for at least five years before the trial.
- That she has lived in the US for at least seven years after being admitted in any status.
- That she does not have certain disqualifying criminal convictions.
At the trial (“individual hearing”), the judge will review the documents the applicant and the prosecutor have submitted. The attorney helps the applicant and witnesses speak to the judge about the case, and offers legal argument for why the applicant qualifies and deserves to win. A prosecuting attorney representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) usually opposes the case and cross-examines each witness, trying to convince the judge that she should deny the case and deport the applicant. If the judge denies the case, she usually orders the applicant deported. If she approves the case, the applicant keeps her green card and may become eligible for citizenship.