Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Deportation Basics

Deportation refers to the process of sending an individual back to their home country after a breach of specific laws or regulations. This process usually begins when a person violates U.S. immigration laws or commits certain crimes, such as aggravated felonies.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its law enforcement division oversee this process. The DHS investigates whether an individual has entered the country unlawfully, overstayed their visa, or violated immigration or criminal laws.

Deportation proceedings don't happen overnight. It consists of a series of court hearings that are important in deciding the fate of the respondent. Before deporting a respondent, the U.S. government, through its branches, must show the necessity of deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

This implies that the respondent can prove their eligibility to stay in the country and explore other forms of relief. This could either be by applying for cancellation of removal, withholding of removal, waiver, or adjustment of status.

This article provides an overview of the removal process, deportation, and expedited removal. It is also recommended to seek legal advice from an experienced immigration attorney. They can assist respondents with navigating through the complex process of immigration law.

The following are the government agencies that play a crucial role in immigration services.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

A team of officials from ICE ensures the implementation of immigration laws. They secure the borders in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS processes all paperwork for those intending to enter or remain in the United States. USCIS handles applications for:

  • Visas (including employment-based visas)
  • Green cards
  • U.S. citizenship

They also process other immigration status changes, such as naturalization. USCIS supervises other programs, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

BIA addresses cases of immigrants seeking a second chance. It also addresses immigrants disputing the decisions made by the U.S. government. The BIA is integral to the immigration process, particularly when handling appeals.

Who Can Be Deported?

Any noncitizen of the U.S. can be deported. This includes lawful permanent residents (LPRs and green card holders), those with immigrant visas, and undocumented immigrants.

Several factors may subject a person to deportation proceedings. These factors include the following:

  • Violation of immigration laws: This includes illegally entering the U.S., overstaying a visa, or violating the terms of legal entry.
  • Criminal activity: A person convicted of certain crimes may also face deportation. Among these are drug offenses, trafficking crimes, aggravated felonies, domestic violence, crimes against the government, and more.
  • Security and law enforcement: This includes activities that violate the laws and threaten U.S. national security.

Notice to Appear

A deportation or removal proceeding typically begins with a Notice to Appear (NTA). A Notice to Appear contains an instruction to appear before an immigration judge.

The DHS files a Notice to Appear with the immigration court after serving it to the respondent. The Notice to Appear contains the following information:

  • The legal proceedings involved
  • The law that supports the proceedings
  • The actions or behaviors that allegedly violated the law
  • The charges against the person and the rules that were allegedly infringed
  • The right to be represented by a counsel of their choice at no expense to the government
  • The consequences if the person does not show up at the hearing
  • The respondent must give the attorney general a record of their address and contact number

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has a list of immigration courts that have jurisdiction over certain DHS offices or detention centers. The first hearing, also known as the "master calendar," is a hearing before an immigration judge in an immigration court.

At the first hearing, the immigration judge asks whether the immigrant is ready to proceed or needs time to find an attorney. If they need an attorney, the judge reschedules the hearing.

Once the respondent had the chance to get an immigration attorney, the judge verified the facts on the NTA. The immigration judge also asks for the respondent's plea to the charges alleged. The respondent's eligibility for relief is also assessed. If the respondent has committed an aggravated felony, the court may bar certain forms of relief.

Deportation Proceedings

The usual deportation process involves a series of steps. This process includes court hearings and other legal services that ensure the fairness of the deportation process. The following are the procedures for deportation and exclusion:

  • Appearance before the immigration judge
  • Filing with the immigration court
  • Hearings before the immigration judge
  • Motions before the immigration court
  • Appeals of immigration judge decisions

If the judge rules that deportation should proceed, the immigration judge issues an order of removal. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handles the removal proceedings.

The adjudication process on deportation proceedings often requires an individual hearing. The individual hearing, or "merits," is more detailed and formal than preliminary hearings. Here, procedural matters are assessed. The respondent also confirms or denies the allegations made against them. If the allegation involves an aggravated felony charge, it could result in the inadmissibility of certain forms of relief.

If the immigration judge rules against the immigrant, they may appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days. BIA denials must be appealed in the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals. A denial at this level can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Voluntary Departure

If an alien has no other basis for relief or has lost all their other claims, they may request or be offered voluntary departure by the court.

Voluntary departure is an agreement that allows the alien to be more flexible in preparing when to leave the country. The respondents can also avoid specific penalties they may otherwise face if they do not voluntarily leave the country.

But several reentry bars are not cured by voluntary departure. Respondents accepting voluntary departure should understand all the obligations and consequences of the order before agreeing.

Seek Legal Advice

Due to the complexity of deportation proceedings, it is advisable to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can assist you in understanding the deportation process and its potential consequences.

An immigration attorney can also guide you during intimidating immigration proceedings. Their expertise includes assessing each case and understanding intricate forms of relief available. They can also assist you in any possible appeals or requests for consideration.

Learn About Deportation Basics

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Was this helpful?

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options