Injunctions for protection, also commonly referred to as restraining orders, continue to serve as a potential pitfall for non – United States citizens. Injunctions are extremely easy to obtain and little evidence is required to obtain one. Often, a judge will issue an injunction based solely on the word of the person who filed for the injunction. That person may have ulterior motives to obtain the injunction, for example to gain leverage in a divorce proceeding or child custody proceeding. But once an injunction is obtained, any violation of that injunction could lead to deportation. A conviction is not even necessary. And even if you would otherwise be eligible for a form of relief where the judge could cancel your removal, a conviction would render you ineligible. A recent Board of Immigration Appeals decision has further solidified this position.
What is an Injunction?
An injunction is a court order commanding you to do things or to not do things. For example, a judge can order you to stay away from a specific person, to stay away from specific places, to go to batterer’s intervention program classes, and to adhere to many other court ordered conditions. A person can obtain an injunction by going to the courthouse and filling out a form alleging that they are in fear of future violence because of something the respondent has done or said in the past. An injunction can be granted based on nothing but that person’s own words. The court will typically issue a temporary injunction and set it for a hearing. At a hearing, the judge will listen to you, the petitioner, any witnesses and will look at evidence that the petitioner or respondent submits. The burden of proof is extremely low and if the judge feels that there is animosity between the two people will often err on the side of issuing the injunction. However, this can have a significant impact on any person, but particularly for a non-citizen.