Deportation is the process of removing a non-citizen from the United States. Although often framed as an individual event, deportation has a wider social impact. Between 10-11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the U.S, making up 17% of the labor force and sharing households with 6.7 million U.S citizen children (Warren and Kerwin 2017). In addition, the deportation of a loved one can have an impact on family stability and economic well-being.
Deportations can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) places a non-citizen into removal proceedings. ICE initiates these cases when it believes that the person is illegally in the United States or violated their status. People who enter the country without permission or overstay their permitted time under a visa waiver program are likely to be placed in removal proceedings, as are people who commit crimes or fail to inform ICE of changes to their address.
The person in removal proceedings will attend one or more hearings before an immigration judge. During these hearings, the person can present evidence and testify about their situation to the judge. The judge will then decide whether to order the person removed from the United States or grant relief. Relief can include asylum, cancellation of removal, withholding of removal, or Convention Against Torture relief.
In general, an individual will be deported if the judge orders them to return to their country of origin. However, the judge can issue a stay of removal or revoke a deportation order in the face of a credible fear of persecution. In some cases, the person may also be eligible for a waiver of removal or cancellation of removal and can apply for these forms of relief before a judge in immigration court.
The Trump administration has ramped up deportations and is targeting all unauthorized immigrants for removal, even those who have never been convicted of a crime or who have committed minor or old criminal offenses. In some cases, this crackdown has caused individuals to be put into expedited removal proceedings, meaning they are more likely to be deported due to a lack of time to fight their case in regular immigration court. The Trump administration has claimed that this approach is necessary because it focuses on violent criminals and gang members, but critics argue that these policies are not only unfair to families with long histories in the United States but also contribute to regional instability as they deport migrants back to countries that struggle to deal with violence and crime.