What is Deportation?

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Deportation is the removal from a country of an individual whose immigration status has expired or whose illegal presence in the country has been discovered. The government has a legal responsibility to deport people who have no right to remain in the United States, and deportation proceedings can be long and complicated. Deportation can have severe consequences for the individuals involved, their families, and their communities.

Immigration law defines “deportation” as the “removal from a country of an alien who has no right to remain there.” The term originally referred to banishment from Roman law, and it was used for political criminals and those who committed crimes such as adultery, poisoning, forgery, and theft. Today, the government deports people based on a variety of grounds, including inadmissibility to the United States, criminal convictions, lack of lawful status, and violations of the laws of asylum, withholding of removal, or cancellation of removal.

The deportation process starts when an individual is encountered by immigration officials and questioned on the spot about their status. If the officials decide that the person should be removed, the individual will receive a notice to appear in court. At this hearing, the individuals will have an opportunity to ask for more time to obtain a lawyer and explain why they should not be deported.

At this first hearing, the judge will review your documentation and determine whether you have a realistic basis on which to claim that you are eligible for relief from removal. If you do not, the judge will schedule another hearing for you, called an evidentiary hearing.

During the evidentiary hearing, an immigration judge will examine all of the evidence presented by DHS against you. You will have the opportunity to present your own witnesses and evidence, as well. The government must meet the high standard of proof known as clear and convincing evidence to prove that you are removable.

If the judge finds that you are subject to deportation, he or she will order your removal. The government may carry out this order by air at the U.S. government’s expense or may ask you to leave on your own, at your own expense. If you are removed, it is important to understand that you can appeal the ruling by filing a request with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The deportation of parents and other family members can have devastating consequences for children, including a loss of access to cultural and linguistic resources. The repercussions of deportation extend beyond the immediate family and community, as many families are multigenerational and rely on support networks that have developed in schools, churches, and other community organizations. Communities can help reduce the harm of deportation by promoting cultural awareness and supporting immigrant-led initiatives to create opportunities for all community members. They can also support programs that foster social and emotional wellness, promote civic engagement, and promote a sense of belonging. They can also end 287(g) agreements and stop local law enforcement from participating in deportation actions.