What is the Deportation and Removal Process for noncitizens in the US?

When a person is accused of being in the United States illegally, they begin a long and arduous process of time consuming hearings which can end in deportation or an eventual release. The individuals being referred to in this case are undocumented immigrants. There are people who were born on foreign soil and are present in the United States without having gone through the United States immigration procedure, and as such do not have the legal right to remain in the United States.


Undocumented immigrants can be put under arrest by local or federal law enforcement and are eventually transferred to the custody of United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Local police can arrest undocumented immigrants for a variety of violations ranging from violent crimes to routine traffic citations. Local police can then share their arrest information with ICE, which can request that the local law enforcement hold the individual for a period of up to 48 hours and then transfer him or her to ICE custody. However, local law enforcement isn’t bound to obey this request. After this, even if the individual is released by local law enforcement, ICE can arrest him or her in the future.

Undocumented immigrants can also be arrested by Border Patrol agents at borders and airports. Individuals arrested by the United States Border Patrol are always turned over to ICE.

ICE agents have the authority to arrest individuals suspected of being undocumented immigrants. ICE agents can and routinely arrest individuals from home and their workplace. Once the arrest has been made, ICE decides if the individual should be taken into custody and if removal proceedings should be pursued.

Expedited Removal

Individuals found to have entered the United States illegally or those persons whose visa has expired can be deported from the United States through the expedited removal process. If expedited removal orders have been made, then they can’t be appealed to a judge. However, individuals can claim that the orders were improperly or illegitimately issued and ask the government for a review and dismissal of the order.

At this point in time, expedited removal can only take place for those individuals who were arrested within 100 miles of the US border and have been in the United States for a period less than 14 days. However, the Trump administration is considering an expansion of expedited removal nationwide, making undocumented immigrants anywhere in the United States vulnerable to expedited removal if they have been in the United States for a period less than two years.

Notice to Appear

This is the most traditional Immigration Court process, and an alternative to Expedited Removal.

ICE gives a Notice to Appear to individuals in the removal proceedings. The document lists the reasons why the government believes that he or she is an undocumented immigrant and why he or she should therefore be removed. The document can arrive through the mail or can be served by an immigration officer. Individuals are given a period of at least 10 days before they have to appear in court.

Voluntary Departure

Some individuals can opt to leave the United States willingly and cooperatively with the United States government. This has the advantage of permitting certain individuals to be able to return to the country, but under certain specific guidelines.

Voluntary Departure has to be requested very early in the deportation process and the eligibility criterion has no tolerance for any deviation. If individuals want to be able to opt for voluntary departure, they must meet the following conditions:

•             Produce a valid travel document.

•             Have the financial means to be able to leave the country themselves.

•             Post a minimum of $500 bond within five days of a judge’s order, if requested.

•             Haven’t been granted Voluntary Departure previously.

•             Have been a person of “good moral character” for a period of at least five years before seeking voluntary departure.

Upon being granted voluntary departure, individuals are given a date by which they have to leave the country. Depending on what stage of the process the voluntary departure was requested at, the date is usually within two to four months of when the request was granted.


If ICE decides that removal is to be pursued, then an assessment of the individual’s security and safety risk is made. This includes the decision to detain the individual or if bail can be granted or if the individual should be detained. Detainees of ICE are usually kept at immigrant detention centers but are also sometimes detained at privately contracted prisons.

Bond Hearing

The purpose of a bond hearing is for the judge to set the dollar amount of the bail. Once the bond is set, the individual can opt to either forfeit the bond or agree to return for all hearings.

The criteria on which the judge decides the bond is the individual’s financial ability, method used to enter the country, local family ties and record with the United States law enforcement.

In a bond hearing, ICE is represented by a government lawyer. The lawyer will either agree that the individual is eligible for bond or will argue that the individual shouldn’t be eligible for bond because they are a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Master Calendar Hearing

These are short hearings that determine how a case should proceed. Individuals are presented with a list of charges against them and they have to admit or deny each one, following which the judge decides the date of the next hearing and what defenses against deportation can be considered.

Merits Hearing

Conducted before an Immigration Judge, individuals present arguments for why they should be allowed to remain in the country. Merits hearings can take hours or days. Individuals can have their own lawyer.

At the hearings conclusion, the judge announces whether the individual can remain in the US or not. Depending on the outcome, both the individual and ICE have the right to an appeal.

Order of Removal

Unless a person is detained, an immigration judge may either make the decision on the day of the merits hearing or send the decision by mail. The person can stay with his or her family until the decision is received if the decision is sent by mail.

Appeals can be made in case of a negative decision. These appeals can take months and the individual can have to stay incarcerated during the appeals process even if they are eligible for bond.


Federal law demands that deported undocumented immigrants be deported directly back to their home countries. Individuals from Mexico are usually flown to US border cities and either walk or are taken across the border by bus.

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