Deportation & Removal Law
Last updated October 26, 2021
Anyone who is an immigrant to the United States can face deportation to their home country. Whether you are deported, and when, depends on certain circumstances. U.S. immigration laws clearly specify the grounds for deportation of aliens and establish deportation procedures.
Each deportation case is different. If you want to know about your case or want to know about the deportation of a loved one, talk to an experienced immigration attorney who can answer your important questions.
How the Deportation Process Works
The deportation process begins when an immigrant receives an appearance notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This notice orders them to appear before an immigration judge on a particular day and time.
The notice also includes information on the following:
- The reason the notification is being sent
- How the person violated immigration law
- The person's right to hire immigration attorneys at their own expense
- The consequences for not appearing as ordered
At the hearing, the judge may determine that the deportation order is correct and proceed with the deportation process, or the judge may find that there is reason to consider some type of relief from removal proceedings.
Basics of Deportation
U.S. immigration law specifies the classes of people who qualify for deportation. These classes are the following:
- Foreign nationals who break the law: Those present in the country who violate immigration law while undocumented or whose immigration status has been revoked qualify for deportation. This applies to undocumented immigrants and immigrants who hold visas or green cards.
- Foreign nationals who violate an entry condition or non-immigrant status: People who have been admitted as non-immigrants who do not maintain their legal non-immigrant status and those who did not comply with the conditions imposed for their immigration by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- Foreign nationals with terminated conditional status: Immigrants and permanent residents who are admitted to the country in conditional statuses, such as employment or marriage, can be deported if there is a change in this condition.
- Smugglers or those who assist others in any way to enter the country illegally: Smugglers may be subject to deportation. There are some exceptions for those who assist family members in immigrating, or assist others for humanitarian purposes. These exceptions are at the discretion of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).
- Foreign nationals entering into a fraudulent marriage: People who enter into a fraudulent marriage or get married two years before or two years after entering the country for the purpose of staying in the country may be deported unless they can prove that the marriage was legitimate.
- Foreign nationals convicted of a crime: Being convicted of a crime includes crimes of moral turpitude committed within five years from admission, aggravated crimes, fleeing an immigration inspection point, not being registered for committing a sex crime, domestic violence and child abuse, controlled substance charges, harassment, crimes with firearms, and trafficking in prostitutes or weapons.
- Unregistered foreign nationals: This includes anyone caught falsifying documents, failing to register with immigration authorities, or failing to report a change of address. These are grounds for deportation unless the person can prove that the act was reasonably excusable and unintentional.
- Foreign nationals guilty of terrorism: People committing any acts of terrorism, such as being part of a terrorist organization, endorsing terrorist activities, kidnapping, attacks, threats, and other acts are grounds for deportation.
Deportation Process 101
The deportation process is multi-stepped and does not happen quickly in most cases. After the initial appearance notice, it may take several weeks or months before the hearing.
At the hearing, other people may be summoned to appear before the judge passes judgment. Once a repatriation order is issued, it usually takes a while for the person to be transported out of the country.
Exemptions From Deportation
The first exemption is a cancellation of the repatriation order by the immigration judge. This is possible if the person meets all the following criteria:
- Lived in the U.S. for seven consecutive years
- Was a lawful permanent resident for five years
- Was never convicted of a felony, espionage, or terrorist activity
The second option is a change of immigration status. This occurs when people change to lawful permanent resident status.
For example, if the person is eligible for a green card because they have married a U.S. citizen but have not yet obtained it, the immigration court can grant them a change of status and stop the deportation process.
Another option is an exemption at the discretion of the prosecutor. This means that the immigration judge has granted a waiver for reasons such as domestic violence, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), fear of persecution, or evidence that the immigrant's presence in the United States does not entail any risk to national security or public safety.
One of the other common options is seeking asylum. To obtain asylum, it must be shown that if the person returns to their country of origin, they may suffer torture, discrimination, or other types of persecution.
Learn About Other Options Through a Lawyer
There may be other exemption methods in your case. Immigration law attorneys can provide information and communicate your options. You may be able to appeal a decision and be removed from deportation.