What is Deportation?

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Deportation is the act by which a government sends back or expels a noncitizen who does not have a right to be there. Immigration authorities deport (remove) people for a variety of reasons, including illegally crossing a border, violating a visa term, or remaining in the country beyond the allowed stay.

Deportation can have a devastating effect not only on the person removed, but on their families and communities. Often, it changes the way that children are raised and the cultural context of a family. Even for legal residents, and sometimes citizens, deportation can cause profound loss.

People who become deported have a wide range of family and community ties that might make them eligible for relief from removal, including having U.S. citizen children, being married to a U.S. citizen, or having significant ties to a particular location, such as a city where they worked. However, many times these ties are not enough to prevent deportation.

Having a criminal record, being homeless, or having been incarcerated may result in the government deporting an individual. A person’s removability might also come to the attention of immigration authorities when they apply for an immigration benefit and are denied, or when they are arrested and checked for an immigration hold by law enforcement.

Once the government determines that an individual is potentially removable, they will be formally placed in removal proceedings. At their first hearing, a judge will discuss the charges in the Notice to Appear and whether they have a realistic basis upon which to claim eligibility for relief from removal.

In some cases, a deportee’s home country might refuse to accept them back. This can be due to political pressure from the home country’s leaders or because there is a lack of capacity in the immigration department to verify identities and issue travel documents. In other cases, the refusal to accept returnees can be a deliberate policy choice.

The final step of the removal process is a merits hearing, at which an immigration judge will listen to arguments from the deportee and their attorney as to why they should be granted relief from removal. If the judge decides that the alien cannot get relief from removal, they will be ordered deported.

In some situations, a deportee will not be ordered removed and can choose to leave the country on their own. This is known as voluntary departure, and it is possible to qualify for this under certain conditions. The most common situation is when a deportee has substantial family ties to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This can help them avoid deportation as a punishment for breaking the laws of their host nation. In other situations, the family members will have to take on the role of a sponsor and help their loved ones get relief from deportation. This is a very complex process, and it is important to speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as you know that your family member is at risk of being deported.