The Impact of Deportation on Individuals, Families, and the Community

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Deportation is a process through which the federal government formally removes noncitizens from the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiates removal proceedings when it finds that a noncitizen has violated immigration law or committed crimes outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A person who is deported loses their right to return to the United States. The DHS has many grounds for removing a person, including committing serious criminal acts, overstaying their visa or failing to follow the conditions of their visa, marriage fraud, or violations of U.S. laws, such as trafficking crimes or terrorism offenses.

A massive deportation drive would have devastating impacts on millions of Americans, especially US citizen children and mixed-status households, which consist of one undocumented family member and a household with at least one legal permanent resident or US citizen parent. This brief highlights research from recent studies that examine the impact of deportations on individuals, families, and the community.

During the summer of 1954, the Eisenhower Administration launched a deportation effort that targeted 1 million Mexican immigrants who were in the United States illegally. This operation was part of a larger, military-style effort to remove people who were in the country without legal status. Unlike the mass sweeps that are carried out under President Trump’s administration, this operation was not part of a legislatively mandated enforcement strategy.

Many people who are deported have little or no connection to the countries they are sent to, and often face dangerous and turbulent situations upon returning home. Some face traumatic circumstances, such as torture, abuse, or rape. Others struggle to find employment and make ends meet. Some are unable to afford to live on their own, and may end up living in poverty or homeless shelters.

Research shows that a massive deportation campaign would have severe economic consequences. It could lead to high default rates on mortgages held by households with mixed-status residents and ultimately undermine the housing market. It would also increase the burden on those who remain in the United States by reducing their disposable income, increasing costs of care for children, and forcing some to abandon their careers.

In addition, the removal of many individuals from our communities would strain local services and social support networks. The social capital that immigrants build up over time is diminished when they are forced to leave.

In order to avoid deportation, it is important for anyone facing deportation or removal to get legal advice from a qualified attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help them file an appeal before the deadline set by an immigration judge and/or to challenge the government’s evidence at their hearing. However, if the judge decides to deport someone, they must actually leave the United States—either on their own or after receiving a “bag and baggage” letter from ICE telling them when and where to show up for transport. For information about finding a qualified lawyer, see our guide on Finding a Deportation Defense Lawyer.