What is Deportation?

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Deportation is the expulsion of an immigrant or other foreign national by a country. This can occur if the foreign national is found to have committed a crime or otherwise violated the terms of his or her visa or entry. In addition, some countries are hesitant to accept returnees due to political or security concerns. The term derives from the Spanish word “deportar,” meaning to “throw out” or “remove.”

The deportation process can be lengthy and complicated. Illegal aliens are generally subject to deportation if they cross the border without proper documentation or stay beyond their authorized period of time in the United States. However, non-citizens can also be subject to removal proceedings if they commit certain types of violations during an adjustment of status or naturalization process, engage in marriage fraud, or falsify documents to gain entry into the United States.

Most people who are deported are removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE arrests an individual and then sends the fingerprints of that person to federal immigration databases. If the records match, ICE can request that local law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) continue to hold the person for up to 48 hours before transferring them to ICE custody. The LEAs’ compliance with these requests, known as detainers, is voluntary.

Once an illegal alien is in ICE custody, they have the opportunity to contest their case in front of an immigration judge. This hearing is called a merits hearing, and it can take several hours or days to complete. During the merits hearing, an illegal alien can present evidence of their character and circumstances to prove they deserve relief from deportation. They can also submit affidavits from witnesses who can vouch for their good moral character and show that they would suffer extreme hardship (like loss of income or family members) if removed from the United States.

After a hearing, the judge decides whether to grant the illegal alien relief from deportation or not. If the judge rules against the individual, they will be issued a removal order. The individual then has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.

For mixed-status families, the deportation of a spouse or parent can be especially devastating. Often these individuals are the primary caregivers for children in the household, which may be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other dependants. When deported, these children often face the difficult choice of remaining in the United States or returning to their home country.

In a world where globalization is increasingly intertwined, the deportation of even one individual can have unforeseen consequences. Historically, deportation was used as a tool of empire to punish or drive out invading foreign populations and to establish control over land. Today, the global power dynamic is in play when the United States deports individuals back to their home countries, where they often face social and economic marginalization. This is particularly true for those sent back to China and other recalcitrant nations that refuse to accept their citizens.