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Generally deportation is removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated. Prior to April 1997 deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures. After April 1, 1997 , aliens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability. Now called Removal, this function is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Deportation of immigrants and other individuals may result as a consequence for entering the United States illegally. You can also be deported if you are not a citizen and have committed a serious crime.

Exclusion vs. Deportation

Exclusion may apply when the foreign individual is seeking entry into the United States . Thus, when you are attempting to get a green card, a visa or just cross the border, you can be excluded/prevented from doing so. If the United States government has determined that you should be excluded, you cannot attempt to re-enter the U.S. for at least one year. It is a felony offense if you do re-enter before the end of that year. You must also gain permission from the CIS before re-entering.

A person who is already in the United States is potentially subject to removal or deportation . Even if you have a valid visa or green card, you can be deported. If you have been deported, you cannot gain re-entry into the United States for at least five years. It is a felony if you re-enter before the end of the five years. You must also receive permission from the CIS before you re-enter.

Reasons for Deportation or Exclusion

Because staying in the United States is a privilege and not a right for non-citizens, the United States government can force an individual to return to his or her home country for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Committing fraud or misrepresenting a material fact in order to get a visa, green card, etc.
  • Conviction of a drug offense (except for possession of a very small amount of marijuana).
  • Conviction of other crime.

Stopping Removal / Deportation

If you have been served with a notice to appear in deportation proceedings, you still may be able to stay in the United States . There are several different ways you can seek relief from deportation. Some methods for relief from deportation include:  

  • Suspend deportation – A deportable alien must fulfill the following criteria to suspend deportation:
    • The alien must be continuously and physically present in the United States for at least seven years
    • The alien must be of good moral character
    • Religion
    • The alien must show that if deported, this would cause extreme hardship on the alien or the family
  • Asylum – Asylum may be granted to individuals who have been persecuted or who fear future persecution in the home country because of:
    • Race
    • Nationality
    • Religion
    • Political belief or opinion
    • Membership in a certain social group
  • Withholding of deportation – Withholding of deportation can occur for reasons similar to granting asylum. Unlike individuals granted asylum, however, an individual granted a withholding of deportation cannot apply for permanent residence and can be deported to a different country than the home country. 
  • Voluntary departure – Voluntary departure is usually granted by an immigration judge after an order of deportation for an individual who seeks to leave voluntarily in lieu of forced deportation. 
  • Other methods – Check with your immigration attorney to discuss the possible methods appropriate for your situation.

Seek an experienced Immigration Attorney

An immigration attorney will be able to advise you of all the possible methods to legally avoid deportation. An immigration attorney can also help you with all the detailed procedures of the deportation hearing.