What is Deportation?

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Deportation is the expulsion of a non-citizen by an executive agency of a sovereign state. It is a form of punishment or banishment from a country where the government feels the presence of that person is unlawful or detrimental. The word derives from the Latin “deportare,” which meant to banish or exile someone from the country of his or her citizenship. Historically, deportation was often used to remove political enemies, criminals or those convicted of serious crimes from their homelands.

In the modern immigration context, the government initiates removal proceedings for non-citizens when they are found to be in the United States illegally and fail to meet their legal obligations. This includes those who have been convicted of crimes such as aggravated felonies, drug offenses, domestic violence, sex offenders and national security threats. Non-citizens placed in removal proceedings are also subject to a variety of other violations including failure to appear at hearings, lying during interviews and more.

During removal proceedings, the Department of Homeland Security will serve the non-citizen with a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA informs the individual of the alleged grounds for deportation and that they have the right to an attorney at government expense. Individuals will then be scheduled for a master calendar hearing, which is the first opportunity to have their case heard before an Immigration Judge.

At the individual hearing, the immigration judge reviews evidence and hears testimony from witnesses in support of their application for relief. The judge will then issue a decision on the case and either approve or deny the request for relief. If the judge does not approve the case, he or she will order the person removed from the United States.

If a non-citizen’s deportation is ordered, they may appeal the judge’s decision by filing a written appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals before the time limit set by the judge expires. The non-citizen can also seek to have the deportation reversed in a court of appeals, but this is very difficult and the process can take years.

When a person is ordered deported, they are typically escorted to a commercial airline flight to their home country. It is not uncommon for individuals to return to countries that are hostile or unstable, where they will face severe harms such as torture, abuse, gang violence, death and more. Researchers have developed a database that records cases where individuals who have been deported have returned to their homes and suffered a variety of harms (Stillman, 2018).

The process of deportation has many ripple effects. Besides the direct impact of deportation on individuals, it can have profound implications for families, communities and societies. It is for this reason that the United States must carefully weigh its immigration policies and avoid deportation to dangerous countries. In the current climate of political pressure and limited resources, the deportation process can become increasingly complex. As a result, it becomes more challenging for origin states to comply with readmission agreements and may create further problems for the individuals they are seeking to deport.