U.S. immigration authorities have the legal power to deport immigrants, both undocumented and those with legal status, if they violate certain laws or regulations. In 2024, here are 5 of the top reasons immigrants may face deportation:
1. Committing Crimes
Committing certain types of crimes is one of the most common reasons immigrants get deported. Under immigration law, being convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” or a “controlled substance” offense can trigger deportation procedures. These crimes include:
- Drug trafficking, smuggling, or distribution offenses
- Fraud crimes like identity theft or document fraud
- Theft, burglary, or robbery offenses
- Sex crimes such as rape, sexual abuse, or child pornography
- Crimes of violence like murder, manslaughter, assault, domestic violence
- Firearms offenses
- Money laundering
- Human trafficking or human smuggling
Even if the crime is a misdemeanor or happened many years ago, it can still result in deportation. Any non-citizen charged with a deportable crime should consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer as well as an immigration attorney.
2. Immigration Violations
Violating the terms of one’s visa or legal status is another common trigger for deportation. Some examples include:
- Overstaying the expiration date on a temporary visa
- Working without employment authorization
- Failing to depart after a removal order
- Knowingly entering the U.S. without inspection
- Marrying solely to obtain immigration benefits
Immigrants who lose their legal status for any reason become deportable. Those in violation of U.S. immigration laws should speak to an immigration lawyer right away about their options.
3. Security Risks
Immigrants who are deemed national security threats may be quickly deported by DHS. Reasons include:
- Suspected ties to terrorist groups or activities
- Espionage against the U.S. government
- Membership in totalitarian parties
- Violent overthrow of the U.S. government
Evidence for these types of deportation charges often comes from an immigrant’s social media activities, relationships and affiliations, travel history, etc.
4. Public Burdens
Immigrants who become dependent on government benefits or are deemed likely to do so in the future may also face deportation. Under the Trump-era “public charge” rule that is still in effect in 2024, using programs like food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance can count against immigrants in their green card or visa applications. Immigration officers may argue that reliance on these benefits makes someone a “public charge”, meaning they depend too heavily on taxpayer resources.
5. Other Removal Triggers
There are other, less common reasons DHS may seek to deport someone, including:
- Falsifying information or lying in any immigration application or interview
- Failure to report a change of address within 10 days of moving
- Student visa holders who stop attending school without approval
- Being determined as “inadmissible” during immigration inspections
In many of these cases, working with an experienced immigration attorney can help identify defenses against deportation and keep families together in the U.S.
How Immigrants Can Avoid Deportation
There are several things immigrants can do to reduce their chances of deportation:
Stay Out of Legal Trouble
Avoiding criminal arrests and convictions is the way for immigrants to stay deportation-proof. Simple misdemeanors can carry harsh immigration penalties.Those who do end up arrested should decline to speak to police without an attorney present and immediately contact a criminal lawyer.
Maintain Legal Immigration Status
Immigrants should be vigilant about maintaining legal status, keeping visas and green cards valid, and promptly filing any extensions or adjustments of status.Letting legal status lapse makes one vulnerable to deportation. USCIS provides reminders about upcoming expiration dates.
Seek Immigration Counsel
Consulting frequently with an immigration attorney can help identify potential deportation risks early. If DHS does start removal proceedings, having expert legal advice increases one’s chances of successfully fighting deportation.
In today’s political climate, deportations are an ever-present threat for America’s over 44 million immigrants. Violations of criminal, immigration, or public welfare laws are the most frequent causes. Avoiding legal violations, maintaining valid immigration status, and working with qualified attorneys offer the best protections against deportation and family separation. With smart preventative steps, immigrants can continue building their lives in the U.S.