Though I have always heard about deportation, I never had a complete understanding of the deportation process. My understanding was that an alien is apprehended by a law enforcement agent –usually Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stuffed into a crowded van with tens of other illegal immigrants, and then dropped off at the Mexican border. However, the process is a lot more complicated than that.
An alien can face removal from the United States for violating any number of immigration or criminal laws (unlawful voting, committing marriage fraud, or falsifying documents). Once formally removed, an alien may permanently lose the right to return to the United States. Like any other criminal procedure, deportation is a legal proceeding. Though the alien is not a citizen of the U.S., he still has legal rights. An alien has the right to contest removal on constitutional or procedural grounds. However, the government has no responsibility to provide an attorney.
As the official charging document, a Notice to Appear (NTA) begins the deportation process. As the first set court date, the Master Calendar Hearing, an NTA is given through the mail or in person. This document lists the charges against the detainee, a description of the illegal activity committed, and a list of provisions of immigration law that were violated. Serving to review the charges in the NTA, the Master Calendar Hearing is a preliminary hearing. In these hearings, more than one respondent appears before the Immigration Judge. The Immigration judge must tell the detainee the respondent’s rights in his native language. After the Master Calendar Hearing comes the Individual hearing. In this hearing, the government proves the charges against the alien. At the end of this hearing, the judge decides if the alien will be deported. The deportation process is much more complicated and lenghty than I first understood it to be.