Although the issuance of visas is partly the responsibility of US embassies and consulates overseas, deportation is an internal matter because it concerns non-US citizens who are present in the United States. Accordingly, the initiation of deportation proceedings is handled by the Department of Homeland Security, primarily through its subdivision Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Appeals to the US federal court system are sometimes available.

Possible Grounds for Deportation

Space limitations prevent listing all of the possible grounds for deporting someone. A few of them are listed below:

  • Committing certain crimes;
  • Entering the US illegally;
  • Overstaying your visa;
  • Marriage fraud; and
  • Voting in a US election by claiming to be a US citizen.
Deportation Proceedings

How You Might Come to the Attention of Immigration Authorities

Millions of immigrants live in the US, and a significant percentage of them are subject to deportation. Following are a few of the main ways that ICE might become aware of your immigration status in a manner that might prompt them to institute deportation proceedings against you:

  • Raiding your place of employment in search of undocumented immigrants and immigrants lacking the right to work in the US;
  • Discovering an irregularity in your passport or other documents upon your arrival in the US (at the airport, for example);
  • Checking your immigration status if you are arrested (which could get you into immigration trouble even if you are not guilty of the offense you were arrested for); or
  • Denying your application for some immigration benefit (asylum, permanent residence, etc.), if the denial means you no longer have the legal right to remain in the US.
Expedited Removal

Expedited Removal

In expedited removal, you will never even get out of the airport before you are sent home, and you will not receive a hearing before an immigration judge. The justification for this practice is that you have not formally entered the US (you have not yet passed through immigration inspection).

At the border, you do not have the same rights as people who formally entered the US as a result of passing through immigration inspection (by, for example, presenting a passport to an immigration officer and being waved through). Expedited removal might occur if, for example, you present a fake passport to the immigration examiner, or fly to the US without a valid visa. The number of expedited removals has increased drastically over the past few years.

The Notice to Appear

The first step in a deportation proceeding, excluding expedited removal, is to issue you a Notice to Appear. This document must inform you that:

  • Proceedings are underway to deport you;
  • A statement of the grounds (reasons) for your deportation;
  • A statement that you have the right to be represented by a lawyer at your own expense; and
  • The adverse consequences of failing to appear at any scheduled immigration hearing
Mario Vargas Hearing

Your First Hearing

You will be notified of the place, date and time of your first deportation hearing. Although you could definitely benefit from bringing an immigration lawyer with you, don’t skip the hearing even if you don’t have a lawyer. If you skip it, the judge will automatically order your deportation, and you will not be allowed to return to the US for at least 10 years.

Voluntary Removal

If you arrive at your first hearing with no defense to removal, it is probably in your best interest to ask the immigration judge to grant you Voluntary Removal, under which you agree to leave the US on your own by a certain date.

If the judge grants your request for Voluntary Removal, and you leave the US by the assigned date, the entire affair will not count as a deportation, and you will not be subject to a bar to re-entry on that basis. You might, however, face a re-entry bar for some other reason, such as a prior deportation or unlawful presence in the US.

If You Have a Defense

If you have a defense against deportation, you should raise it before the immigration judge at your first hearing. A myriad of defenses might be available, depending on your specific circumstances.

Following are a few examples:

  • Immigration authorities made a mistake, either in determining the facts relevant to your case, or in applying the law to your case;
  • You are married to a US citizen (this will not always be effective even if you can prove it is true, but sometimes it works); or
  • You have grounds for claiming asylum.
  • Once you raise a plausible defense, the immigration judge will schedule a second hearing to determine whether your defense is valid.
Second Hearing - Deportation

The Second Hearing

At the second hearing, you will pursue whatever defense to deportation that you offered at the first hearing (if you offered no defense, there will be no second hearing). You will be entitled to testify in your own defense and present evidence to the court, and you can be cross-examined by a USCIS lawyer seeking your removal.

This is a situation where an experienced immigration lawyer can really help you. You are entitled to bring your lawyer with you to the hearing to assist in your defense.


Under certain circumstances you are entitled to appeal an adverse decision; however, a discussion of the appeals process is beyond the scope of this article.

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