The deportation of a person or group from one country to another is a process that alters the lives of individuals who are deported, their families and communities. In the United States, deportation has been driven by changes to immigration law that have expanded the categories of offenses that can result in removal and have limited previously existing protections from removal. Deportation has also been made more common by the rise of immigration enforcement in recent decades.
The deportation process begins when a person is encountered by an immigration official, often at a port of entry or during an interview. The official determines whether the person should be removed and can do so without a hearing, if the person qualifies for expedited removal proceedings. Expedite removal proceedings are initiated by the government for people who entered the United States illegally or misrepresented material facts on their application for admission.
Typically, the next step in the process is a merits hearing – a chance for the individual to present their arguments about why they should not be deported. Depending on the complexity of the case, a merits hearing can take hours or days to complete. If the judge rules against the individual and denies relief, a deportation order will be issued.
If the judge decides to deport an individual, the agency that oversees the process will begin the final steps of executing the deportation order. This can be as simple as having the person placed on a commercial flight, or more complex, such as having them placed in ICE custody, and arranging to have them sent home.
In the latter case, the individual’s origin country may have a role in the return process. However, many countries of origin have tools to make returning migrants difficult or even impossible. For example, they can refuse to cooperate with verification requests from the US government by not responding or by imposing high bars for confirming identities. They can also block or delay returns by refusing to send a plane full of returning migrants (Baker & Hagan, 2012).
In addition to the harms that individuals who are deported experience in their communities, family members of deported individuals can also suffer tremendously. Nearly 4 in 5 families screened in detention centers claim a credible fear of persecution should they be forced to return to their countries of origin. In some cases, this can lead to kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder. Researchers are generating new evidence about how these and other deportation-related harms play out in individual, familial, and community contexts.