Deportation, sometimes referred to as removal, is the process by which the federal government removes those who are in the country illegally from the United States. Anyone who is an immigrant to the United States can face deportation back to their country of origin under certain circumstances, like committing an aggravated felony or failure to register a change of address.
U.S. immigration law specifies following classes of non-citizens (often called aliens) who are eligible for deportation:
- Inadmissible aliens. These are persons who were inadmissible at the time they entered the country or at the time of an adjustment to their immigration status.
- Those present in violation of law. Those who are present in the country in violation of immigration law or those who have had their immigration status revoked are eligible for deportation.
- Those in violation of a condition of entry or non-immigration status. This refers to people who have been admitted as non-immigrants who then do not maintain their non-immigrant legal status as well as those who have failed to comply with the conditions imposed on their immigration by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- Those with terminated conditional status. Aliens and permanent residents who are admitted to the country on a conditional status, such as business or marriage status, can be deported if there is a change in this condition.
- Smuggling people or assisting others in any way to enter the country illegally are grounds for deportation. There are some exemptions for those who assist family members to immigrate or who assist others for humanitarian purposes. These exemptions are at the discretion of the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Those guilty of marriage fraud. People who commit marriage fraud or who enter into marriage two years before or two years after entry for the purposes of staying in the country can be deported unless they can prove to the Attorney General that the marriage was not just for the purpose of evading immigration law.
- Those convicted of crimes. These include crimes of moral turpitude committed within five years of entry, aggravated felonies, fleeing from an immigration checkpoint, not registering as a sex offender, domestic violence and child abuse crimes, controlled substance charges, stalking, firearm offenses, and trafficking of prostitutes or weapons.
- Those who have failed to register. Falsification of documents, failure to register with immigration authorities, and failure to report a change of address are grounds for deportation unless the person can prove to the Department of Justice that the act was reasonably excusable and not willful.
- Those who are guilty of terrorism. Acts of terrorism, including membership in terrorist organizations, endorsement of terrorist activity, hijacking, assassination, threats and other acts are grounds for deportation.
The steps typically involved in a removal proceeding include the following:
- The person is served a Notice to Appear (NTA). This document sets out the basic information about the immigrant such as their name and country of origin as well as the basis for deportation or removal. This notice, or a following notice, also schedules the first hearing.
- Master calendar hearing. This is a preliminary hearing at which the immigration judge asks if the alien is ready to proceed with the case, or if he or she needs time to secure an attorney.
- Merits hearing. Any defenses will be presented during the merits hearing. The immigrant will also be examined by a DHS attorney, and the immigration judge will make a decision.
Many forms of relief available to those in removal proceedings are “discretionary.” This means that the immigration judge has broad authority to choose to grant or deny requests; usually to be forgiven for a violation of the immigration laws. To receive this type of relief, the burden of proof is on the alien to show that they are both eligible and merit the favorable exercise of discretion. This typically requires proof that the individual has good moral character, significant connections within the United States, and that the hardship their resident or citizen family members would suffer is in excess of the hardship that normally occurs when someone is removed.
If you receive a Notice to Appear at a removal hearing, an immigration attorney can help you navigate this complicated legal situation. Immigration law is complex, and an immigration attorney can provide you with invaluable assistance. A qualified deportation lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court.