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

Question

My case in Immigration Court seems to be going badly, and at my next hearing, I expect to be ordered deported. What will happen then? Will they put me on the next flight out of the country?

Answer

It sounds like you may have given up on your case, but talk to your lawyer about this. Even if the judge does order you deported, you may have grounds upon which to file an appeal. Your deportation will be “stayed” (held off on) while you pursue that appeal.

Filing an Appeal

Appeals are made to the Board of Immigration Appeals (B.I.A.). You have 30 days in which to submit this, unless you declare in court that you don’t plan to appeal and waive your rights to do so.

If you definitely have no basis upon which to appeal, 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 makes it harder to return to the United States. See “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, and thus a bar to returning to the U.S. for many years. Plus, whoever paid your bail money won’t get it back.

After the Judge Orders Removal

Now let’s assume that you attend the 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 won’t be taken to immigration jail. You’ll have some time at home while the government arranges travel documents and transportation back to your original country.

When the government is ready, in most cases it 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 not being able to leave when the government says you must. For example, you may be too sick to travel, or you may have discovered a new legal basis 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 U.S., and possibly the right to work before you have to leave.

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

What Happens If You Ignore the Removal Order

If you've moved 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 you are 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 may also reach local law enforcement--that is, regular police and so forth. If you are stopped for any offense (even speeding), you may be arrested and held for ICE.

Attempting to dodge removal by ignoring the "Bag and Baggage" letter may 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, in your bathrobe.

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

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