Deportation is the process of removing a non-citizen from the United States. It occurs either because an individual is in the country illegally, without the required documentation, or because a non-citizen has committed a crime. The government might also deport you if you ask it for financial support, such as by applying for welfare. No matter why the government initiates it, the overall process of deportation, also called removal, is usually the same.
Notice to Appear
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles deportations or removals. It is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If you've done something that can get you deported, USCIS will send you a Notice to Appear. USCIS must also give a copy of the notice to the federal immigration court. The notice will tell you why you're in danger of being removed and give you the date for your first hearing. You usually have at least ten days before the hearing, so you'll have time to consult with a lawyer.
The initial hearing, called a "master calendar hearing," is mostly procedural. If you don't have an attorney yet, you can ask for more time to find one. Immigration officials will explain the deportation procedure to you, tell you about your rights, and schedule an "evidentiary hearing" where you can challenge your deportation.
At the evidentiary hearing, also called an "individual calendar hearing" or "merits hearing," a federal immigration judge hears the evidence against you. You can defend yourself by offering your own evidence, witnesses, or testimony. This is the hearing that determines whether you'll be deported. You have the right to fight the charges against you. Alternatively, you can ask the court to waive deportation and give you a chance to correct the problem that caused the threat of removal.
Appeal the Decision
If the immigration judge rules against you, you don't have to leave the country immediately. You have 30 days to file an appeal with the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. In some cases, you can even appeal an unfavorable BIA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Doing Nothing Is Your Worst Option
Even if you don't appear for your hearings, the DHS can remove you from the country. It's not necessary that you be present. The DHS attorney will ask the judge for your removal. If you are not there to fight the charges against you, the judge will probably order your removal.
An Immigration Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding immigration and deportation is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an immigration lawyer.