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Students Draft Practice Advisory on Notices to Appear

Students in the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic created a practice advisory for attorneys representing noncitizens in immigration proceedings in collaboration with the American Immigration Council and the ABA Commission on Immigration.
Professor Shoba Wadhia with students Lauren Hartley and James GIlbert

The American Immigration Council, ABA Commission on Immigration and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights released a practice advisory today for attorneys representing non-citizens in immigration proceedings. The practice advisory, entitled Notices to Appear: Legal Challenges and Strategies, was researched and drafted by Penn State Law students Lauren Hartley ’15 and James Gilbert ‘14 in the school’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

The Notice to Appear is the charging document used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify a non-citizen about immigration charges and a future immigration court hearing. Filing a Notice to Appear (NTA) with the immigration court places an individual in a removal proceeding before a judge and is a significant step in the removal process.

At various points after an NTA is issued, an attorney representing the charged party may negotiate with DHS, which has discretion to file the NTA with the court, thus going forward with removal proceedings, to drop or revise certain charges, or to cancel the NTA and end the removal proceedings. After the NTA is filed, DHS can exercise discretion through a joint motion asking the judge to administratively close or terminate proceedings. The decisions made by DHS about NTAs are not just ministerial as they impact the lives of non-citizens and their families in significant ways.

This practice advisory provides innovative legal and procedural arguments and strategies for attorneys representing non-citizens 1) who are likely to be issued NTAs, 2) who have been issued NTAs that have not been filed with the immigration court, or 3) who have been issued NTAs that have been filed. It provides an overview of the legal requirements for an NTA and strategies available to attorneys to cancel, mitigate, or challenge the contents of an NTA.

“Currently, there is a dearth of information available to practitioners for how and when NTAs should be negotiated or challenged,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights. “This practice advisory has the potential to inform hundreds of attorneys whose non-citizen clients are facing removal and other immigration proceedings. It will help ensure that their basic rights are protected throughout the legal process.”

About Penn State’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights

The Center for Immigrants’ Rights is an immigration policy clinic at Penn State Law under the direction of professor and immigration expert​ Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia. At the center, students produce white papers, practitioner toolkits, and primers of national impact on behalf of client organizations while working in teams to build professional relationships with policymakers, academics, clients, and others.​ For more information, visit


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