The Importance of Giving Noncitizens a Chance to Be Heard in Deportation Proceedings

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The government deports people who are not citizens of the country in which they live if it believes they do not have the legal right to be there. Deportation is often a terrible experience for the person who is removed and their family members who remain behind. It can also have a significant economic impact. A new study finds that deportation can lower household incomes by about half.

In some cases, the government will ask noncitizens to leave voluntarily without going through the deportation process. This is often the best option for those who are in the country illegally and who do not have any strong defenses to deportation. However, the government must still give these individuals a chance to be heard in deportation proceedings.

Immigration officials may begin the process of deportation by sending a notice to an individual known as a Notice to Appear or NTA. This notice will provide the person with a date of their first hearing before an immigration judge. At this initial hearing, the judge will advise the noncitizen of their official charges and give them a chance to have an attorney present with them.

At the next hearing, called an Individual Hearing, the judge will review evidence and hear testimony from witnesses before making a decision on whether to order the person deported. This is the most important hearing and is similar to a trial. This is when the noncitizen has the chance to defend themselves against the deportation charges by presenting evidence and arguments with the help of their lawyer.

During the hearing, the judge will also discuss any relief available to the immigrant and what burden of proof is required for this type of relief. Typically, the burden is clear and convincing evidence. However, the judge has broad discretion to grant relief to an immigrant based on evidence presented at the Individual Hearing.

If the judge grants relief, the NTA will be dismissed and the immigrant will be allowed to legally re-enter the United States in the future. If the judge denies relief, they will be ordered to be deported.

Historically, deportation was a punishment for crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, and forgery. It was often accompanied by confiscation of property and removal to penal settlements in foreign countries. The ICTY’s Stakic Appeals Chamber has held that the term deportation, when used in international law, means the forced displacement of persons across state borders or de jure border lines, and that it is therefore a war crime (ICC Statute of Rome, Art. 49).

Deportation can be a devastating experience for people who have lived and worked in the United States for years. It can also break up families, especially if the deportee has U.S. citizen children. Local communities can support those affected by deportation with programs focusing on mental health/healing, community building, and collective political action. Those who have been deported can be barred from returning to the United States for several years or indefinitely.