What is Deportation?

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Deportation is the expulsion of a noncitizen from a country or region, typically based on their violation of a nation’s laws. The practice is overseen by immigration law enforcement agencies, most commonly the Department of Homeland Security and its agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Deportation can be a harsh punishment for breaking specific rules or laws that have little to do with crime. It can also have a profound impact on families, communities, and nations where those who are deported return.

There are many ways to end up in removal proceedings, but all cases begin with ICE formally accusing the person of being removable. The reasons vary from being in the country without legal documents to having a felony conviction that renders a person inadmissible to remain in the United States.

When a person is placed in removal proceedings, they have a chance to defend themselves against the allegations through immigration court hearings. During these hearings, the immigration judge verifies the facts on their Notice to Appear and determines whether they are eligible for any relief from deportation, such as a cancellation of removal or asylum.

The process for removal can be incredibly lengthy. It depends on a number of factors, such as the respondent’s detention status, the location of their case, and how quickly they can find a lawyer to represent them. Additionally, the current administration is pressuring immigration judges to complete cases as fast as possible so continuances to pursue pending benefits are less likely.

Once the judge has made a determination on their case, the respondent can be ordered to leave the country, or they may choose to depart voluntarily. ICE runs regular flights to Mexico, Central America, and other countries for those who decide to leave on their own. The process isn’t without its complications, though. For example, people who are removed can face difficulties at the border when trying to reenter the United States or even in their home countries.

Those who are deported to their home countries often return to chaotic and dangerous situations. They may suffer from violence or abuse, especially if they are women or children. Some may be subjected to torture, rape, or murder. Researchers at the Global Migration Project have created a database with numerous reports from migrant shelters, aid groups, law offices, and mortuaries that document the harm deportees have faced upon returning home.

For these reasons, the practice of deportation has drawn scrutiny, especially in recent years with heightened immigration workplace raids and terminations of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans and Hondurans. The impacts of these actions go far beyond the individuals who are being removed from the country. Their deportation can affect spouses, children, and parents who are US citizens, as well as community members and business owners who depend on them for their labor and support. These ripple effects are what makes the policy controversial. Deportation is an essential part of our nation’s immigration system, but it needs to be handled carefully and fairly.