Immigration & Naturalization Law
Deportation and Removal
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has many stringent, and sometimes complicated, laws around immigration and foreign visitors. If these rules aren’t carefully followed, it could lead to your deportation and removal from the country. In some cases, deportation can delay your return to the U.S., or prevent it entirely.
If you or a loved one are facing deportation, here are some of the processes you can expect and some of the options you have for fighting it.
It takes specific circumstances for a person to get deported from the country. U.S. citizens cannot be deported, whether they’re a citizen by birth or by naturalization.
Some common reasons for deportation include:
- Visa and green card violations. If you’re in America on a temporary visa or on a green card awaiting citizenship, you can be deported if your pass expires or you violate any of its terms.
- Fraud. If you obtained a visa or green card fraudulently, such as through a fraudulent marriage, you could be deported if caught. Forged paperwork could also lead to your removal.
- Criminal activity. If you’re convicted of a crime, especially a violent crime or significant felony, you could be deported. Severe crimes are the most likely reason that any future entries to the U.S. could be denied.
- Undocumented entry. If you came to the U.S. outside of the official procedures or remain here undocumented, you could be deported if discovered.
There are two main processes for deportation: expedited removal, and removal through immigration court.
Expedited removal is often used when a person enters, or attempts to enter, the country without paperwork, or with forged paperwork. Usually, a DHS officer gets to decide if a person will be immediately removed, and the removed person won’t always get an opportunity to plead their case before an immigration judge. Expedited removals are more common when the immigrant is within 100 miles of a U.S. border.
In other cases, an immigrant may be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or another law agency. Local law enforcement can typically only hold an immigrant in jail for 48 hours before turning custody over to ICE. Once in ICE custody, immigrants are usually held for a few weeks before trial.
The detainee will have a chance to appear before a judge and argue against their removal. The judge can either agree to the deportation or terminate the case. A dismissed case does not automatically make an undocumented immigrant a legal citizen, but may allow them to get citizenship through the legal channels.
If the judge rules for deportation, you can have the option to appeal, or to waive the right to appeal. You have a limited amount of time to appeal, so if you plan to, you need to start the process quickly.
Of course, the easiest way to fight deportation is to get legal U.S. citizenship, but that process can be complicated and time consuming. Not everyone can be granted citizenship when they want or need it.
When you encounter ICE agents, you have certain rights. They will need a warrant signed by a judge to enter your home. You’re allowed to refuse entry into your home if they don’t have a warrant with them. Note that if you do invite them in, or you agree to go outside to talk to them, they can detain you. Some jurisdictions count merely opening the door to speak to them an invitation to enter, so communicate though a closed door.
You may be able to cancel your removal if you meet certain criteria. If you’ve been in the U.S. for many years (often 10 or more), you’ve worked, paid taxes, and avoided legal trouble, you may be able to prevent removal.
Undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children may qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Eligibility requirements for DACA usually include an application for the program, high school graduation or high school diploma equivalent, and a clean criminal record. You can usually apply for DACA even if you’ve already received a deportation order.
One of the best ways to prevent deportation is to work with an immigration attorney who understands your rights and the legal system. They can help you explore your options for staying in the U.S. legally or assist with a defense in immigration court.
There are some limited resources for immigrants who can’t afford hired legal representation, but in general, consulting with an attorney or hiring an attorney will be the best way to secure legal help.
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