Grounds for Deportation from the United States

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) sets forth numerous grounds for the deportation (“removal”) of non-citizens. Common grounds for deportation from the United States include (but are not limited to):

  • Criminal convictions,
  • Being in the U.S. unlawfully, and
  • Fraud.

People who are in the U.S. unlawfully have few rights. They can be sent back to their country of origin without a hearing in as little as 24 hours.

But lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) and holders of visas such as F-1 student visas and K-1 fiance(e) visas have the right to a hearing before they can be deported. They also have the right to appeal an adverse decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA").

To help you better understand ground for deportation from the U.S., our California criminal and immigration lawyers discuss, below:

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1. What crimes can get a person deported from the U.S.?

Broadly speaking, five major categories of criminal convictions can result in deportation (“removal”) from the United States:

  1. Aggravated felonies,
  2. Crimes involving moral turpitude ("CIMT"),
  3. Drug crimes,
  4. Firearms offenses, and
  5. Crimes of domestic violence.

These categories frequently overlap. But the distinction is important. Some types of crimes make you inadmissible to the United States. If you are deported for a crime that makes you inadmissible, you will not be able to legally return no matter how long you have resided in the U.S.

Additionally, it is easier to get a hardship waiver if your crime is not considered a “particularly serious crime.” Under the INA, a crime is considered particularly serious if it is an aggravated felony that carries a sentence of 5 years or more.[1] 

This makes it particularly important to fight convictions (and avoid plea deals) that fall into a problem category. 

1.1. The meaning of “conviction” under U.S. immigration law

“Conviction” carries a broader meaning under U.S. immigration law than in many other contexts. For purposes of the INA, “conviction” can include:

In addition, admitting to any act that could constitute a crime (even as part of a plea bargain) can sometimes serve as grounds for deportation.

This makes it critical not to accept a plea deal without first consulting with a lawyer.

1.2. Can I be deported if my crime is expunged?

Yes. Getting a crime expunged does not “erase” a conviction for purposes of immigration law.

There are, however, many benefits to getting an expungement. Most importantly, you do not need to disclose an expunged conviction on most job applications.

1.3. Can I be deported if my crime is pardoned?

In most cases a getting a full and unconditional governor's pardon (or presidential pardon) excuses a crime for purposes of immigration.

But pardons are difficult and time-consuming to get. Thus they are not an effective means to avoid deportation.

A pardon, can, however, remove a bar to being inadmissible so that you can return legally to the United States.

2. When can I be deported for being in the U.S. unlawfully?

An immigrant who is in the U.S. unlawfully can be deported without a hearing, often by expedited removal in as little as 24 hours after being picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") officers. An immigrant is in the U.S. unlawfully if:

  • The immigrant does not have permission to enter the U.S.;
  • At the time of entry or adjustment of status the alien was inadmissible to the U.S. for any reason;[2]
  • Admission to the U.S. has been revoked or termination;
  • The alien has failed to maintain the status under which he or she was admitted;
  • The alien has failed to comply with any conditions of entry to the U.S; 
  • The alien has knowingly encouraged or assisted another alien to enter the U.S. unlawfully; or
  • The immigrant procured his or her visa or other documentation by fraud.[3]

Technically, a non-citizen can also be deported for willfully failing to notify the government of a change of address.[4] In practice, however, this can usually be remedied.

In addition, some of the other conditions can be waived, particularly when the alien has close family members in the U.S.

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3. Can I be deported for using drugs?

Yes. Non U.S.-citizens who abuse drugs or are addicted to a controlled substance are deportable – even if they have not been convicted of a drug crime.

And any alien who commits -- or attempts or conspires to commit – a drug crime (other than a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use) is deportable whether or not that person uses or abuses drugs.[5].

4. Can I be deported for fraud?

Yes. Many acts involving fraud are grounds for deportation. These include:

  • Fraudulent marriage in order to obtain a green card;
  • Falsely representing U.S. citizenship in order to obtain a job or government benefit; or
  • Forging, altering or using an altered document to obtain any government assistance or benefit.

An exception is that the alien represented him- or herself in good faith to be a citizen and:

  1. Both the alien's parents were U.S. citizens, and
  2. The alien permanently resided in the United States prior to attaining the age of 16.

Aliens who do not fit into this category may, nevertheless, be able to obtain a waiver of removal if the alien was a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and the benefit was for the sole purpose of aiding the person's spouse or child.[6]

5. Can a U.S. citizen be deported?

U.S. citizens cannot be removed unless they used fraud to gain their green card or citizenship.

Worried about deportation? Call us for help…

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If you or someone you care about faces criminal charges or other grounds for deportation, we invite you to call our California criminal and immigration attorneys for a free consultation.

It is possible to fight deportation, even under current White House policy.

Call us at (855) 396-0370 or fill out the form on this page to speak to a knowledgeable lawyer today.

Legal references:

  1. INA 241(b)(3)(B)(ii).
  2. Common reasons for inadmissibility include having a serious communicable disease, being likely to require public assistance, or having participated in genocide.
  3. 8 U.S. Code § 1227 (a)(1).
  4. 8 U.S. Code § 1305.
  5. 8 U.S. Code § 1227 (1)(B)(ii).
  6. 8 U.S. Code § 1227 (3). See also 8 U.S. Code § 1324c.

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