What is illegal immigration in the U.S.?

In the United States, illegal immigration refers to the act of foreign nationals violating American immigration policies and laws through the entering or remaining in the country without receiving proper authorization from the Federal Government.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), amended by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA) determine removal proceedings whether a non US citizen, or alien, should be deported, sent back to his home country, from the US.

The deportation process usually begins with the Department of Homeland Security issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA). Deportation can occur as a result of an immigrant being convicted of a criminal act; in lieu of incarceration, that individual may be given the option of expulsion from that particular country or nation.

The Notice to Appear states your name and the country in which you were born and it orders you to appear in front of an immigration judge. Moreover, it provides you with other information such as:

  • the reason why you’ve been ordered to appear;
  • how you allegedly broke the law;
  • your right to have an attorney;
  • the consequences of your failure to appear at the hearing.

You are then scheduled to attend a hearing before an immigration judge. An attorney represents the government at these hearings; you can also have legal representation of an immigration lawyer, but it must be “at no expense to the government.”

If the judge determines that you can be deported, you can apply for relief from removal. If you are eligible, another hearing will be held.