A Family’s Guide To Deportation In The U.S.

Deportation, which is officially called removal, is a serious process that can result in a person’s permanent removal from the United States. There are several reasons a person may be deported – but in some cases, there are ways to work through the legal system and avoid removal. For many people who have been targeted for removal from the U.S., it makes sense to work with a Houston immigration attorney who understands the law and what you can do to stop the process.

What Is Deportation?

Deportation is the “formal removal of a foreign national from the U.S. for violating immigration law.” It’s not a single event; instead, it’s a series of events.

Deportation Proceedings

When the U.S. Government finds grounds to deport a foreign national, it launches a process that can involve detention (imprisonment) and court hearings.
Immigrants who meet one of the criteria, such as the commission of certain crimes, marriage fraud, or failure to obey the terms of a visa, may be entitled to a court hearing. The process in cases like these can go like this:

  • The foreign national is held in a detention center before trial and prior to deportation.
  • One of the U.S. Department of Justice’s immigration courts hears the case.
  • The immigration judge decides whether the person is deportable, and whether or not to order his or her removal.
  • If the judge decides to deport the person, he or she is typically flown back to his or her home country at the U.S. government’s expense.

It is possible, although rare, for a naturalized U.S. citizen to have his or her citizenship revoked. That process is called denaturalization, and denaturalized former citizens can be subject to removal from the United States.

What Are The Grounds For Deportation?

There are several grounds on which the U.S. government can choose to deport a foreign national. The most common include the commission of a crime and failure to obey the terms of a visa, but here’s a more complete list:Fighting Deportation

  • Commission of a crime
  • Drug abuse or addiction
  • Failure to advise USCIS of your change of address
  • Failure to obey the terms of your visa
  • Marriage fraud
  • Receiving public assistance
  • Threatening public safety

Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list. If the U.S. government says you’re deportable or that it’s initiating removal proceedings against you, your best bet is to consult with an immigration attorney who can help you.

Commission Of A Crime

The commission of a serious crime, such as an aggravated felony, domestic violence, or any crime found to be one of moral turpitude, is grounds for removal if it’s committed within 5 years of admission to the U.S. or getting a green card. The commission of two crimes of moral turpitude that result from a single event can also be grounds for deportation.

Drug Abuse Or Addiction

Drug abuse and addiction are outlined in Act 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act as grounds for deportation. Likewise, the INA says that any alien who violates the law when it comes to controlled substances (other than a single marijuana offense that only involves 30 grams or less) is deportable.

Failure To Advise USCIS Of Your Change Of Address

The provisions of Act 265 of the INA require aliens to notify the Attorney General in writing each time they move. You have 10 days to report your change of address – and if you miss the deadline or fail to report altogether, you could be legally removed from the U.S.

Failure To Obey The Terms Of Your Visa

Anyone who received an immigrant visa but was inadmissible to the U.S. at the time is subject to deportation. In a similar rule, immigrants who violate the terms of their visa are removable, as well. For example, if you’re admitted to the U.S. as a tourist, you’re not allowed to work – and if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services discovers that you are working, you could be removed from the country.

Marriage Fraud

It’s illegal to take part in a “sham” marriage – one that’s not a genuine marriage. Generally, a fake or fraudulent marriage involves one party marrying a U.S. citizen only to gain immigration benefits. If you’re caught in a fraudulent marriage, you’ll be deported.

Receiving Public Assistance Without Adequate Cause

The INA forbids aliens from applying for or receiving public assistance within their first 5 years of arrival unless they have causes that have arisen since entry. Technically, it says when someone “has become a public charge from causes not affirmatively shown to have arisen since entry is deportable.”

Threatening Public Safety

If you’re engaged – or if you were engaged – in any criminal activity that endangers public safety or national security, you’re deportable. The government can also deport you if you’re involved in “any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means.”

Cancellation Of Removal Hearings

If the U.S. government begins removal proceedings against you, you (or your immigration attorney, on your behalf) may be able to request a cancellation of removal hearing in order to show the court reasons you should be allowed to stay.
These are the three things you must show the court to qualify for cancellation of removal:

  1. That you are a person of good moral character, and you have been for the past 10 years (or more).
  2. You have remained in the U.S. for the past 10 years. You must show a copy of your passport and the Form I-94 that was attached to it when you first arrived in the U.S., or you can submit pay stubs, bills that show your address, and other items that prove your residence for 10 years.
  3. You (and your family, if applicable) would suffer hardship if you were removed from the U.S. It’s up to you and your lawyer to prove to the judge that the hardship you’d face is too great for you to handle.

People Who Are Not Allowed To Ask For Cancellation Of Removal

Some people aren’t even allowed to petition for cancellation of removal. You cannot apply if you:

  • Are suspected of espionage, terrorism, or activities that would result in the overthrow of the U.S. government
  • Have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude
  • Have been convicted of an aggravated felony
  • Have been convicted of immigration offenses, like document fraud or fraudulent marriage
  • Have participated in the persecution of other people

Can You Fight Deportation?

There are many ways you may be able to fight deportation. However, not everyone is eligible for all of them – and the way you proceed is up to you and your immigration lawyer.

  • Asylum
  • Adjustment of status
  • Arguing your case before an immigration judge
  • Voluntary departure

Fighting Deportation by Asking for Asylum - Houston Immigration Removal Lawyer


Asylum is only granted to people who need the U.S.’s protection from persecution (either actual persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution). The persecution must be due to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular group
  • Political opinion

You may be able to petition the immigration court for asylum if you have been persecuted or you fear persecution, but that’s a conversation you need to have with your attorney.

Adjustment Of Status

If you have been in the United States for a long period of time – at least long enough to get a green card – you may be able to ask the immigration judge to adjust your status from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident. However, the U.S. issues a limited number of green cards each year so this can be difficult. (It’s usually best to apply for a green card as soon as your eligible, and after that, apply for citizenship as soon as you become eligible.)

Arguing Your Case Before An Immigration Judge

Your attorney may be able to argue that you’re not deportable, or that you deserve to stay in the U.S. for one of any number of reasons. If you’re entitled to a hearing before a judge, your lawyer can create a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.

Voluntary Departure

Voluntary departure occurs when an alien leaves the U.S. without an order of removal. When an alien is allowed to voluntarily depart, he or she must concede removability; that means he or she must agree that conditions that make him or her removable are present. The benefit to voluntary departure is that there’s no bar to seeking admission to the U.S. in the future. However, failure to depart within the time granted can have serious consequences – including a fine and a 10-year bar to relief from deportation.

Do You Need To Talk To A Houston Immigration Lawyer About Deportation?

If you’re facing removal proceedings, we may be able to help you. Call us at (214) 999-1942 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation right now. We’ll answer your questions, explain what might happen next, and give you the case-specific legal advice you can use to start moving forward.