If the Immigration Judge Orders Me Deported, What's Next?

Even if the judge does order you deported, you could have grounds upon which to file an appeal. Your deportation will be “stayed” (held off on) while you pursue that appeal.

By , Attorney Oklahoma City University School of Law
Updated 2/14/2023

If your case in Immigration Court seems to be going badly, you might be looking ahead at the possibility of the immigration judge issuing an order of removal (deportation). What will happen then? Will they put you on the next flight out of the country?

The short answer is that, even if the immigration judge does order you deported, you could have grounds upon which to file an appeal. Your deportation will be "stayed" (held off on) while you pursue that appeal, as further discussed in this article.

Filing an Appeal From an Immigration Judge's Decision

An appeal means that you're asking a different court to look at your case because you believe your case should have ended differently. Appeals from Immigration Court decisions are made to the Board of Immigration Appeals (B.I.A.). You have 30 days from the day the immigration judge orders you deported to submit this, unless you declare in court that you don't plan to appeal and waive your rights to do so.

Alternative to Filing an Appeal: Request Voluntary Departure

If you definitely have no basis upon which to appeal the immigration judge's expected order of removal, then the next thing to consider is whether you should request what's called "Voluntary Departure." This allows you to leave the U.S. at your own expense and on your own schedule (within limits) and thus avoid having an order of removal on your immigration record, which would make it harder to return to the United States.

The sooner you request Voluntary Departure the better, as described in Voluntary Departure: Who Is Eligible? for more information on this option.

By the way, if you're not in immigration jail at the time of your hearing, the one thing you do not want to do is skip out on your hearing. That will result in an automatic order of removal ('in absentia'), and you will not be allowed to return to the United States for many years afterward. Plus, whoever paid your bail money won't get it back.

What Happens After the Immigration Judge Orders Removal

Now let's assume that you attend the immigration court hearing and the judge issues an order of removal (deportation). If you were free on bail when the judge ordered you to be deported, you probably won't be taken to immigration jail. You'll have some time at your U.S. home while the government arranges travel documents and transportation back to your original country.

When the government is ready, it in most cases will send a letter (known as a "bag and baggage" letter) to you at the address you gave the court. The letter will tell you when and where to report for your trip out of the country and how much baggage you can bring with you.

Sometimes there is a good reason for your not being able to leave when the government says you must. For example, you might be too sick to travel, or you might have discovered a new legal basis upon which to remain in the country.

If this happens, you can ask that your deportation be postponed by filing an application for a "stay." There is a fee for this application, but if it is granted, you get more time in the United States, and possibly the right to work before you have to leave.

Sometimes the U.S. government doesn't even send a letter, and takes people away by surprise. It's best to be prepared to leave at any time if you have a deportation order on record.

What Happens If You Ignore the Immigration Judge's Removal Order

If you've moved to another place or you ignore a "Bag and Baggage" letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), then this agency will refer your file to the fugitive unit. This is the ICE police force that tracks people down and arrests them.

ICE agents could arrest you at your home, place of work, or school, at any time. In fact, they often come at night, expecting the fugitive to be asleep in bed. If arrested, you will be kept in custody (detained) until travel arrangements can be made.

When and whether ICE agents come to arrest you depends on many factors, including the enforcement priorities of the local unit and its level of manpower. Once you are listed as a fugitive, however, this information might also reach local law enforcement—that is, regular police. If stopped for any offense (even speeding), you could be arrested and held for ICE to come get you.

Attempting to dodge removal by ignoring the "Bag and Baggage" letter can buy someone a bit more time in the United States as a fugitive; however, there are other serious consequences. You could end up spending more time in jail or prison awaiting removal. You could be charged criminally. It is possible that friends or family could be charged with harboring a fugitive. The arrest could be embarrassing, frightening, or dangerous—in public, in front of your family, or in your bathrobe.

Ignoring an order of removal could also count against you in any future attempt to come back to the United States.

Getting Legal Help

If you are in deportation proceedings or have been ordered deported and are not sure what to do, it is best to contact an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss your potential options.

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