Not only are removal proceedings complex, but their consequences are always life-changing, for better or for worse. That is why we believe that any detainee, even if not an illegal immigrant, must consult an experienced immigration attorney when facing the deportation process. To give you an idea of the nature of the process, we have presented this simplified diagram of the deportation process.
Removal Proceeding Flow Chart
As the removal proceedings flow chart illustrates, detention is the first step of the deportation process. Soon after detention, ICE will have determined whether or not the detainee may post an immigration bond, and whether he/she will be given an NTA, or a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings, which lists the charges. The bond amount may be disputed in a bond hearing, which is entirely separate from the immigration case. If the detainee is served with an NTA, his or her removal hearing will proceed regardless of bond status or amount.
Avoiding Deportation: Reliefs from Removal
There are five types of relief from removal, the availability of which depends on the detainee’s status (e.g. whether an illegal immigrant, guilty of certain crimes, etc.) and fulfillment of the applicable requirements:
- Cancellation of removal, in which the judge simply ends the removal proceedings
- Voluntary departure, where the judge lets the detainee avoid deportation by leaving the US at his/her own expense and by a fixed deadline
- Adjustment of status, which grants a nonimmigrant detainee Lawful Permanent Resident status
- Waiver of removal, for certain cases in which deportation would cause excessive hardship to an American citizen or permanent resident
- Asylum, for those who cannot return to their country due to a legitimate fear of persecution by the government
We strongly urge you to consult with an immigration lawyer before requesting any of these forms of relief for deportation, since some (namely, voluntary departure) may bring about penalties if not fulfilled, and all have potentially complex requirements for eligibility.
Deciding Whether to Deport a Detainee
If the judge decides on voluntary departure or adjustment of status, the removal proceedings are over, and the detainee will not be deported. If cancellation, waiver, or asylum are sought, there is a subsequent individual merit hearing, wherein the judge reviews allegations against the detainee, and the detainee’s immigration lawyer argues for the desired forms of relief. After this final hearing, the detainee will either obtain the relief requested, in which case the removal proceedings are finished, or be found deportable, and given the option to appeal the ruling within thirty days.