The Removal Process 101

Deportation is the legal process in which an alien (meaning a foreigner who is not a naturalized citizen) is formally removed from the United States for violating the U.S. immigration laws.

While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that handles lawful immigration into the U.S., a different agency known as the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) oversees the court procedures when an alien is brought before an immigration judge. The EOIR is a division within the Department of Justice that is responsible for conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings. Some of the types of proceedings an immigration judge may preside over are briefly discussed below.

Removal Hearings

Removal hearings are conducted to determine whether certain individuals are subject to removal from the United States. The removal process begins when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) files a document called a “Notice to Appear” (Form I-862) with the immigration court after it is served on the alien. The notice tells the individual to appear before an immigration judge, and includes the following information:

  • Nature of the proceedings
  • Legal authority under which the proceedings are being brought
  • Alien’s alleged acts that violated the law
  • Charges filed against the alien and the statutory laws that have been allegedly violated
  • Alien’s ability to be represented by an attorney – at his/her own expense
  • Consequences of failing to appear at scheduled hearings
  • Requirement that alien provide the Attorney General with a current address and telephone number

The outcome of most removal proceedings depends on whether the alien is eligible for relief from removal. Immigration law provides relief from removal to individuals who meet specific criteria. In most removal proceedings, individuals admit that they are removable, but then apply for one or more forms of relief. A list of different types of relief can be found here.

Bond Redetermination Hearings

In some cases, an alien who is detained by DHS can be released from custody upon payment of a bond. A bond for legal purposes is an amount of money paid as bail that is forfeited if a person fails to appear at a required hearing. Initially, the bond is set by DHS. Afterwards, the alien can make a request to the immigration judge to conduct a “bond hearing” where the immigration judge has the authority to re-determine the amount of the bond set by DHS. A decision of a bond hearing can be appealed (by either the alien or by DHS) to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Withholding-Only Hearings

An immigration judge conducts a withholding-only hearing to determine whether an alien who has been ordered removed is eligible for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act or the Convention Against Torture.

Rescission Hearings

An immigration judge will conduct a rescission hearing to determine whether a lawful permanent resident should have their residency status revoked because they were not entitled to receive it when it was granted.