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Illegal Reentry into the U.S. After Removal: Crime and Punishment

After an alien has been legally "removed" from the United States, federal criminal law makes it a felony for that alien to reenter (or be found in) the country without approval of the government. While immigration has always a hot-button issue in this country, the concept of a person coming back into the U.S after already being removed causes even more controversy. And it isn't just the common folk who have been subject to removal. Remember John Lennon and Yoko Ono? The famous musical couple were served deportation orders in 1972 as a result of marijuana charges against Lennon in London in 1968. Even comedian Charlie Chaplin was once denied entry into the U.S. after satirizing anti-communist fears in the United States during the Cold War.

Below you will find key information on what constitutes illegal reentry, the penalties associated with illegal reentry, and enhancements for prior convictions. Remember, if you or someone you love is facing an immigration-related issue, it is wise to contact a local attorney immediately to learn about your options.

What Constitutes "Illegal Reentry"?

Under the applicable federal criminal statute, the Immigration and Nationality Act, it is not merely illegal reentry after removal that constitutes the crime. Rather, the law applies to any alien who reenters the U.S. or is found within the country, without government approval, after having been:

  • Denied admission to the U.S.;
  • Excluded from the U.S.;
  • Deported from the U.S.;
  • Removed from the U.S.; or
  • Departed from the U.S. while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding.

Penalties for Illegal Reentry

Under relevant federal statutes, an alien who commits illegal reentry as described above will be punished with:

  • A fine; or
  • Imprisonment for not more than two years; or
  • Both fine and imprisonment.

Penalty Enhancements for Prior Criminal Convictions

If the alien reenters or is found in the U.S. without government approval, after a criminal felony conviction for a non-aggravated felony, or after three or more misdemeanor convictions for drug-related crimes or crimes against persons, he or she is subject punishment by:

  • A fine; or
  • Imprisonment for not more than 10 years; or
  • Both fine and imprisonment

For aliens reentering or found in the U.S. without government approval, after a criminal conviction for an aggravated felony, the statutory maximum term of imprisonment is 20 years. Other criminal penalty increases may be imposed for aliens who have been removed after certain kinds of incarceration, and aliens deemed to be associated with terrorism.

Illegal Reentry: Additional Resources

Facing Legal Trouble After an Illegal Re-entry? An Attorney Can Help 

If you have reentered the United States after being removed through a deportation, you may be facing serious charges, including incarceration. The best way to protect your rights is to work with an immigration law attorney, who will work on your behalf. Don't delay; contact an experienced immigration law attorney today.

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.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help with deportation or removal proceedings.

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