Can I be deported / removed?

Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can be deported for a number of reasons. This includes U.S. Permanent Residents (green card holders). The legal term for deportation under our current law is "removal." The U.S. government will pursue certain people for deportation/removal based on priorities defined by our President. Generally, the government will aggressively seek to deport/remove people who fall into these categories:

  • People who are a threat to national security, including terrorists, spies, or those who have provided aid to terrorist organizations;
  • People who are a threat to public safety, this includes, gang members, certain felons, and other who have been convicted of criminal offenses - if you have ANY criminal history, you should talk to an immigration attorney - this can sometimes include people convicted of misdemeanors;
  • People who have immigration violations - this includes people who have recently entered illegally or have a history of immigration violations.

Your risk of deportation/removal may not be simple if you do not have papers. You should contact an immigration attorney about the possibility of relief. This is really important for U.S. Permanent Residents: U.S. Permanent Residents are generally eligible for U.S. citizenship. Deportation can happen to any U.S. Permanent Resident who triggers one of the "grounds of removal." It happens more than most Permanent Residents think. Matt encourages all Permanent Resident clients to consider applying for citizenship. U.S. Citizens can, basically, never be deported/removed.

What do I do if police or immigration officers confront me?

You DO NOT have to let anyone into your home, including police or law enforcement, unless they have a warrant or "probable cause." You can refuse to let law enforcement into your home. Tell them you want an attorney. If law enforcement tells you that you have no choice, do not argue or fight with law enforcement, but tell them you want an attorney.

If you are stopped in your car, you DO NOT have to give information about your immigration status to police. If you are asked about your immigration status, tell them you want an attorney. You will need to cooperate with other demands made by law enforcement, but you CAN REFUSE to tell them about your immigration status by asking for an attorney.

What happens if I'm facing Deportation/Removal?

If the government is trying to deport you, you will receive a "Notice to Appear." If you receive one, you should immediately contact an immigration attorney. If you are placed into custody, you should ask for an immigration attorney. You should also ask to call a friend or family member to help you find an immigration attorney.

If you are facing removal/deportation, you may have forms of "relief" available to you. Here are some common forms of relief:

  • Cancellation of Removal: If you have been a Permanent Resident for five (5) years or have been in the U.S. for seven (7) years after being lawfully admitted AND if you do not have serious criminal charges or other serious grounds of inadmissibility, you might be eligible for Cancellation of Removal. This is a form of relief that will allow you to pursue future immigration options.
  • Asylum / Convention Against Torture / Withholding of Removal: If you would be in danger if you were to return to your home country, you may have a claim under international treaty and/or U.S. law to prevent your removal/deportation to your home country. 
  • U Visa or other victims: If you have been a victim of a violent crime, trafficking, or otherwise helpful to U.S. authorities in solving a crime, you may be eligible to receive a waiver that will prevent your removal/deportation.
  • Waiver and/or (Re)Adjustment: Foreign persons who have immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens or other means to become Permanent Residents may be eligible for relief from deportation/removal. The strongest claim is for Foreign Persons who have a U.S. citizen spouse or child.

While these are some of the most common means of relief from deportation/removal, there are many. Even the ones listed above can be complicated. Contact an immigration attorney.

Should I just leave the U.S.?

No! You should contact an immigration attorney before leaving the U.S. Leaving the country can cause you to be subject to a bar to readmission. The bar can be a three-year bar, a ten-year bar, a twenty-year bar, or a PERMANENT bar. 

I have a criminal charge. Should I plead guilty to make things easier for immigration?

You have a right to immigration counsel during the course of your criminal proceedings. You have a right to have your defense counsel or the court advise you to seek the advise of immigration counsel. If you feel pressured into taking a plea, tell the court you need to talk to an immigration attorney. Things that happen in your criminal case that might seem good for you can have severe consequences for your immigration status that can cause you to be removed/deported, even though it seems not so serious in your criminal case. Make sure you talk to an attorney who knows immigration law.