How Does the Deporter-In-Chief Do It?

By: Danielle Huntley, Esq.  

The most frequent questions I get asked when a new person finds out I am an immigration lawyer is “so what do you think we should do about illegal immigration, why can’t we just send them home?” The second most frequent question I get asked is what I think of President Obama’s record number of removals. He has removed so many illegal aliens he is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “deporter-in-chief.” My follow-up question to both inquiries is to ask what they think the removal process looks like. I hear variations on this theme: “the illegal alien gets picked up by Immigration and put on a plane back to their home country.”


This prompts me to begin a series of posts on removal proceedings and how the process actually works.


Today, I will start with grounds for removal from the United States. An alien is deemed removable under six broad categories [8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)-(6) – I’m including the statutory cite because it drives me crazy when they are not included in a blog entry]. The six categories are:


  1. Aliens who were not admissible to the U.S. at the time they entered the U.S., when they applied for the green card, or have violated their status in some other way. Included in this category are aliens who do not leave after their visa has expired, and aliens who enter the country illegally.
  2. Aliens convicted of certain criminal offenses;
  3. Aliens who fail to register or use false documents;
  4. Aliens who trigger certain national security issues;
  5. Aliens who have become public charges, and cannot show that the cause of becoming a public charge arose after entering the U.S.; and,
  6. Aliens who unlawfully vote.

These categories apply to all aliens in the U.S. from those present in the U.S. with a tourist visa to legal permanent residents who hold the green card.


In my next post in this series I will discuss how an alien who falls into one of the six categories above comes to the attention of the appropriate immigration authorities.