If you are not a citizen of the United States and have ever been arrested, detained, or charged with a crime or any other type of violation, the government may try to deport (remove) you from the United States even if you were not convicted or served time in jail and even if you complied with all the court-imposed conditions.
If you are deported from the United States or leave voluntarily, you may be barred for years from entering the U.S. If you return to the United States after being deported without the authorization of the government, you can spend several years in a federal prison.
In addition, if you are a permanent resident and leave the United States pursuant to a removal order, you may lose your social security benefits for life. That means that if you have worked and paid taxes in the United States, you will lose all the money you paid in social security and will have no retirement benefits in the United States, whether you paid taxes for one year, ten years, or 50 years.
Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act lists the different classes of deportable individuals. A person can be deported for the following reasons:
What to Really Expect in Removal Proceedings
While placement in removal proceedings is serious, it must be understood that a person unlawfully present in the United States cannot just be "thrown out of the county." Generally, removal from the United States must undergo certain due process procedures.
Except in the case of expedited removal, a person will first be allowed a full hearing before an immigration judge. Customarily, a removal proceeding has the following phases:
Bond Hearing: When an individual is in immigration custody, he or she may request a bond hearing. During a bond hearing a respondent (the individual in proceedings) may request to pay a bond in exchange for release from immigration custody. In certain cases a respondent may be ineligible for bond. Should a respondent be eligible for a bond, he or she is released from detention pending removal proceedings.
Ordinarily, a bond hearing occurs before a master calendar hearing. At times the bond hearing occurs at the same time as a master calendar hearing; however, the hearings are two separate proceedings.
Master Calendar Hearing: During a master calendar hearing the respondent is given the opportunity to address the reasons why the government is seeking removal from the U.S. and provide any defenses. Before or during a master calendar hearing the government will issue the respondent a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA is a document that identifies the specific reasons for removal, often referred to as allegations, and the legal basis for removal, often referred to as charges.
The respondent will either admit the allegations and concede the charges in the NTA or contest the NTA. Following the pleading of the NTA, the respondent is given the opportunity to designate a country of removal, identify any defenses of removal (cancellation of removal, asylum, etc.), and file applicable applications.
Individual Hearing: The final hearing in removal proceedings is called the individual hearing or the hearing on the merits. During this hearing the respondent is given the opportunity to put on a full case before the immigration judge. The respondent may present witnesses, supporting documentation, and any relevant evidence in his or her defense.
At the end of the individual hearing, the immigration judge decides to either grant relief or deport the respondent. Should the immigration judge order the respondent removed from the United States, he or she may appeal the decision. The respondent has 30 days to appeal the decision. During these 30 days, the respondent may not be removed from the U.S.
Order of Removal: Once the respondent receives a final order or removal ICE officers will remove the individual from the United States. ICE is supposed to remove the individual from the United States within 90 days of the order; however, due to limited resources this time may be delayed.
ICE will generally send individuals not in custody a Form I-166, commonly called a "Bag and Baggage" letter. This letter will provide the individual with the date, time, and location to appear for removal from the United States. It is the individual's responsibility to adhere to the order of removal.
Should the individual fail to appear for removal the individual faces serious immigration consequences, including being subject to ICE apprehension and ineligibility from most forms of immigration benefits.
If I am Facing Deportation/Removal Proceedings, What Options or Defenses Do I Have?
If you have been arrested and are facing removal proceedings by U.S. Customs and Enforcement (ICE), there are various forms of relief the may help you remain in the U.S.
If you are a U.S. Citizen you don't have to worry about being deported because you can't be. Sometimes people are unaware that they are in fact U.S. citizens based on a relationship to a family member. If you are a U.S. citizen you should notify the immigration judge immediately.
One form of relief available to those facing removal proceedings is cancellation of removal. You may be eligible for cancellation of removal if you satisfy the following requirements:
You may be eligible for cancellation of removal even if you never had a green card if:
There are a couple waivers available to those facing removal proceedings. Under the section 212(c) waiver, if you pled guilty to a crime before April 24, 1996, your criminal conviction may be waived. In order to qualify you must satisfy the following:
Another waiver available is the section 212(h) waiver. This waiver excuses you for certain crimes if you can prove that removal from the U.S. would cause extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child or parent. Some other forms of relief include asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention against Torture. You may be eligible to apply for asylum if you fear harm in your country because of your race, religion, nationality, actual or suspected political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Withholding of removal may be available to you if you can show your freedom or life would be threatened due to your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Finally, you may be eligible for relief under the Convention against Torture if you fear that you will be tortured if you return to your country.
Adjustment of Status is another form of relief available to those who satisfy one of the following:
You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine whether you qualify for relief from deportation.