Who Can be Deported?

1. Any noncitizen: Any non-citizen can be deported as a result of a criminal conviction. This includes legal permanent residents (green card holders), asylees and refugees, people who have been granted withholding of removal or temporary protected status, people who are in the process of adjusting status, and people on student, business and other visas.

2. Undocumented people: Undocumented people are deportable whether or not they have a conviction. Any arrest or conviction will make them more likely to be discovered and targeted by the Department of Homeland Security. This includes people who "entered without inspection" (i.e. crossed the border), people who have overstayed visas, and "absconders" (people with old deportation orders, though they may not know it). Absconders can be deported without a hearing.

  • If you know your Alien Registration Number (A#) and want to know whether you have an old order of deportation, you can call 1-800-898-7180.  This is the hotline for the immigration court (EOIR).  If the hotline says you have a deportation/removal order, talk to a lawyer specializing in deportation before you goto the immigration office, leave the country, or try to adjust your status.

3. Can U.S. citizens be deported? U.S. citizens cannot be deported. However, the government can attempt to take away the citizenship of a naturalized citizen if they can show that his/her naturalization application was "fraudulent" or contained certain omissions or mistakes (for example, if a person failed to disclose an arrest or conviction). A person whose citizenship is stripped may again be vulnerable to deportation.

Where are Immigrants Most at Risk?

1. After leaving the country and trying to re-enter: At an airport, seaport, or at the border, immigration agents may detain a non-citizen if they have an old conviction (even a misdemeanor), false papers, no status or a deportation order. If you have ANY kind of criminal conviction, including a CWOF ("Continued Without a Finding") in Massachusetts, speak to an attorney with experience in crime-related deportation before leaving the country.

2. When applying for citizenship or adjustment of status: Many people put themselves at risk of deportation when they attempt to adjust their status by applying for citizenship or a green card when they have old orders of deportation or past convictions. Undocumented people who apply for adjustment of status will be subject to deportation if their application is denied. If you have ANY criminal conviction, including a CWOF in Massachusetts (see above), speak to an attorney experienced in crime-related deportation before applying for adjustment of status or citizenship.

Read more: Where are Immigrants Most at Risk?

Legal Defenses to Deportation

This section is meant only to flag factors which may be able to stop a deportation.  The laws in each of these areas are very complex. Contact an attorney to find out more.

1. Citizenship:  U.S. citizens cannot be deported.  Citizenship law is complicated, but if any of your parents or grandparents are/were U.S. citizens, there is a chance that you are a citizen.  Notify the Immigration Judge and consult with an attorney.

You are eligible to apply for naturalization if you have had your green card for five years or more (or for three years or more if you are married to a U.S. citizen).  Although most criminal convictions prevent you from being eligible for U.S. citizenship, you may be able to apply for naturalization and ask the Immigration Judge to stop the case to remove you, if you have maintained “good moral character” for the past five years.

2. Cancellation of Removal: You may be eligible for cancellation of removal if:

  • you have been a permanent resident  (had a green card) for at least 5 years, AND
  • you have lived in the US continuously for 7 years after having been admitted to the U.S. (in any status), AND
  • you have not been convicted of an aggravated felony.

Read more: Legal Defenses to Deportation