What to Do If You’re Facing Deportation
Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can be deported or removed from the U.S. regardless of their green card or permanent residence status. An immigrant’s right to be in the U.S. is conditioned on certain rules and avoiding certain types of legal violations. It is an immigrant’s worst nightmare to receive a notice to appear in removal proceedings, potentially facing deportation. While this matter can be very intimidating, it’s important that you don’t ignore or run from the proceedings, but instead, seek legal help to work through the proceedings.
Grounds for RemovalDeportation is the legal process in which a non-citizen is formally removed from the U.S. for violating immigration laws. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets forth numerous grounds on which a non-citizen can be deported. If you are in the U.S. as a non-immigrant, most likely with a visa, various conditions apply to your stay. For example, immigrant in the U.S. on tourist visas are not allowed to work while in the U.S. Additionally, it is a deportable crime for immigrants not to submit immediate notifications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of their changes of address within 10 days of moving. If immigrants fail to abide by the conditions of their visa, they can be deported.
The most common reason for deportation is the commission of a crime. Not all crimes will result in deportation; however, a number of crimes can result in an immigrant’s removal from the U.S. The INA contains a full list of deportable crimes including alien smuggling, document fraud, domestic violence, crimes of "moral turpitude," drug or controlled substance offenses, firearms trafficking, money laundering, fraud, espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and of course, the classic serious crimes such as rape, murder, and any other “aggravated felonies.”
Having to receive public assistance is also a basis for deportation. In order to obtain a green card, immigrants are required to demonstrate that they will not have to rely on need-based government assistance. If an immigrant begins receiving public assistance within five years of entry due to circumstances that occurred prior to immigration, he/she can be deported.
The Removal ProcessThe removal process normally begins with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, issuing the non-citizen a Notice to Appear (NTA). This document states the person’s name and the country in which he/she was born, the date to appear before an immigration judge (IJ), and informs him/her of the nature of the proceedings, the alleged grounds for removal, the right to hire an attorney, and the consequences for failing to appear at scheduled hearings. The IJ will determine whether the alien’s actions or lack of immigration status make him or her removable from the U.S., whether the alien merits any legal or discretionary relief, or whether they’re potentially eligible for some form of relief.
The first hearing that the immigrant must attend is called the “master calendar hearing.” If he/she fails to attend this or any hearing, an automatic order of removal is issued. Typically, during a master hearing, the IJ will ask the immigrant or his attorney questions regarding his immigration status. If the immigrant admits to sufficient facts that allow a court to find that removal is proper, the master hearing will be the immigrant’s final hearing.
If grounds exist to fight the removal, the immigrant and his/her attorney will present their case at the individual or merits hearing. There are several types of relief from removal that may allow you to stay in the U.S., including cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, prosecutorial discretion, and asylum. The merits hearing is similar to a trial and the immigrant is allowed to testify on his/her behalf, present witnesses, and enter documents into evidence. At this hearing, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security represents the U.S. government, and puts on the government’s case, including questioning witnesses and entering documents into evidence as needed.
Seek HelpAnyone that is concerned about being deporting or is facing removal proceedings should immediately consult an experienced immigration attorney. The deportation process is long and complex, and the stakes are high. Having solid legal representation is essential for you to enforce your rights, develop a defense, and put on the best case possible in court. Find an experienced immigration lawyer by quickly posting a short summary of your legal needs on Legal Services Link, and let the perfect lawyer come to you!
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