Deportation Defense: Understanding Your Options for Relief

Deportation is a serious matter with a complicated process behind it. Even so, if you’ve been ordered to appear in immigration court, don’t lose hope. You’ll have the opportunity to defend yourself in front of an immigration judge. Here’s an overview of the options available to you:

Fighting the Allegations

A deportation case typically begins when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) stating that you are removable (or deportable) from the United States. Depending on the information in your NTA, you may be able to argue against its claims. The first thing you should do is find out why the DHS wants to remove you.

For Criminal Convictions

Criminal charges—mainly aggravated felonies and crimes of “moral turpitude” (or shameful, depraved acts)—are commonly used to justify deportation. If your NTA charges you with one of these removable offenses, you may have a few counter-arguments in your defense. You might argue, for example, that your crime doesn’t fall into the right categories; or that your crime does match the definition of moral turpitude but isn’t actually grounds for removal. These definitions are often disputed in the courts, so the right presentation of the facts and circumstances of your crime can make all the difference.

For Unauthorized Presence

The DHS may be wrongfully claiming that your presence in the US is unauthorized, or illegal. First make sure they haven’t made any mistakes on your NTA. Does it correctly list your date and method of entry into the US? Is your personal information accurate? A lawyer can give you a better idea of what to look for.

Relief from Removal

If you aren’t able to fight the charges in your NTA, or if that advice doesn’t apply to your situation, you may be able to find other reasons to stay in the US despite the allegations. This is called relief from removal, and it can come in different forms.

Adjustment of Status and Visas

Laws like the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 245 and 245(i) make it possible for you to change your status from nonimmigrant to immigrant, giving you legal status in the US. Alternatively, you may be able to stay in the US if you apply for a visa. Check to see if you’re legally eligible for any visas, like the U-Visa for victims of serious crimes, and possibly avoid deportation.


If you’re afraid to return to your home country because of the possible dangers to you, you may qualify for asylum. You’ll have to convince an immigration judge either that the government of your home country has persecuted you, or that it gives you reason to fear persecution in the future. Similarly, you can apply for a “withholding of removal” if you think it’s likely that your home government will persecute you based on one of five protected grounds.

Cancellation of Removal

Even if you are unlawfully present in the US or committed a crime, you may be able to get relief from a “waiver of inadmissibility” or a “cancellation of removal” or both. You’ll have to show an immigration judge proof that you meet certain criteria. For instance, if you are undocumented, you’ll have to show that you lived in the US for 10 years or more and your deportation would cause an extremely high degree of hardship to your spouse, child, or parent who is a citizen or Green Card holder.

If you’re not able to fight the DHS allegations or successfully apply for relief, you should consider voluntary departure as a last resort. It simply means leaving the country voluntarily to avoid the consequences of deportation, like an automatic ban from re-entering the US. Of course, you should never attempt to handle the removal proceedings without the help of a qualified immigration attorney. A competent attorney will discuss the options available to you and fight zealously for your case. Call us to speak with a knowledgeable and compassionate team of attorneys who will work hard to make sure you have the best possible chance at staying in the United States.