What is a deportation?
In everyday language, ‘deportation' has many meanings: order of deportation by an immigration judge, deportation proceedings, or actual deportation – physical removal from the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In practice, in most cases before an immigrant is physically removed from the United States, he or she is entitled to a removal hearing before an immigration judge. This may not be the case for those immigrants who already had a removal hearing and received a removal order. Such persons, in case they are apprehended by ICE, face detention and removal from the United States, oftentimes after many months spent in detention.
How are we placed in removal proceedings?
There are many ways in which a deportation process can begin. An incorrectly filled out immigration form can result in denial and deportation proceedings. In addition, in almost all instances we will be placed in removal proceedings after serving time in prison. In many instances immigrants are stopped by ICE during traffic stops or while traveling by train or plane.
How do removal proceedings begin?
Our removal proceedings officially start when a Notice to Appear (NTA) is filed with the immigration court. NTA is a charging document that contains factual and legal allegations as well as provisions of the law under which ICE wants to deport us. NTA also contains instructions about the date and place where we have to appear for our first hearing.
Don't ignore Notice to Appear (NTA).
Notice to Appear is a very serious document and you must not ignore it. If you fail to appear on the date and time specified in your NTA, an immigration judge might issue a removal order without you. This is called an in absentia order and such an order has very serious consequences. Please also remember that if NTA was sent to your old address and you have not informed USCIS about the change, the fact that you never received your NTA cannot be used as an excuse.
Deportation process – what to expect?
Removal proceedings can be a very lengthy process that lasts many years. Even though for most of us deportation proceedings are associated with a removal order, it does not necessarily have to end this way. Generally removal proceedings can end in three ways: removal order, green card, or termination of the proceedings (no green card and no removal order).
There are two types of removal hearings: Master Calendar Hearing and Individual Hearing. During Master Calendar Hearings the parties determine which factual and legal issues are in dispute. Oftentimes an immigrant admits to the allegations contained in the NTA but asks the judge for a relief from removal. In other cases, an immigrant denies all the allegations and the government must prove them. Those disputed issues are usually addressed during an Individual Hearing. There can be a couple of Master Calendar Hearings before the Individual Hearing is held.
Individual Hearings are more official than Master Calendar Hearings. During those hearings parties present their evidence, the judge listens to testimonies of the immigrant, witnesses and sometimes expert witnesses. Both parties are allowed to present their closing arguments. At the end of the Individual Hearing, the immigration judge decides the case and issues a decision. In more complex cases, a decision is mailed to both parties at a later date.
After the immigration judge issues a decision, both parties are entitled to an appeal. Depending on the circumstances, an appeal is made directly to the immigration judge or to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If we lose at the BIA, there may be instances where we can appeal to federal circuit courts.