What is Deportation?

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The process of removing noncitizens from the United States is known as deportation. It begins when ICE accuses someone of being removable — often, but not always, because they are undocumented or have violated the terms of their visa or immigration status. Deportation can also happen to lawful permanent residents, or “green card” holders, who have committed certain crimes or failed to report a change of address. The number of people deported each year is staggering. It disproportionately impacts people from communities of color, and is especially harmful to children, who are more likely to be deported than adults (Golash-Boza and Hondagneu-Sotelo, 2022).

When someone is ordered removed, it means they’re sent back to their country of origin. They may return to an extremely dangerous and turbulent environment where they are at high risk for torture, abuse, rape, and murder. The Global Migration Project, an organization that collects stories from migrant shelters, legal aid offices, and immigrant rights groups across the country, has a database of thousands of cases in which people have been deported and returned to harm, many of them resulting in death.

Throughout the years, deportation has taken on several meanings, including exile, banishment, and transportation of criminals to penal settlements. Today, the term deportation is most closely associated with the mass removal of individuals by a federal agency. It is one of the most powerful tools in the government’s toolbox to enforce immigration laws and punish people for breaking them.

Deportation is a system that alters the lives of millions of people – not just the people who are deported, but their families and communities as well. Innovative research on the interrelated direct, spillover, and downstream social, economic, and political impacts of apprehensions, detention, surveillance programs, immigration court proceedings, and deportations (and more) is needed.

A person can be removed from the United States if they are convicted of a crime, if they have been in the country for too long without proper documentation, or if they are an “enemy combatant.” Even a child born in the United States can be deported, if their parents were undocumented.

The first step in the deportation process is a hearing called a master calendar hearing. At this hearing, an immigration judge will decide if you are eligible for bond, which is a way to get out of detention. ICE is represented by a government lawyer and will argue that you are a flight risk or that you pose a threat to your community. If you are not granted bond, you will remain incarcerated until your hearing is completed or a new bond amount is set. In the meantime, you can apply for relief from removal. The application can be complicated, and it is helpful to have a lawyer assist you. If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision or request a rehearing. Immigration judges rarely grant these requests. However, if there is new information, an immigration judge might reopen the case.