What do I do if I have a deportation order? If you have a deportation order but you haven’t left the United States, you might feel like you're in danger everywhere you go. Really, you are – there is a threat that you could be taken into ICE custody and physically removed. If you've said to yourself, I Was Ordered Deported, but I'm Still in the US and wondered what you should do, you're right to be concerned.
I have a deportation order and a criminal record, can I reopen my immigration case?
We have worked with several people who have deportation orders over the last few years. One of our clients, Olga*, had a deportation order from 1998. We reviewed her immigration court file and determined that the attorney who represented her in 1998 had not been effective in his representation, and this had seriously hurt her case.
We also noted that Olga had two minor misdemeanor offenses from the 1990s that had kept her from applying to stay in the United States during her court case and later, when nationals of Honduras were allowed to apply for Temporary Protected Status.
Although our practice is exclusively immigration, we took on an unusual challenge and worked to get one of Olga’s theft cases reopened and dismissed due to lack of evidence. We are now preparing to file a motion to reopen her case and give her another chance to apply to stay here in the United States with her family. Olga’s situation illustrates some of the things you need to know if you have a deportation order.
What do I do if I have a deportation order:
- You may still be able to obtain legal status if you are able to reopen your deportation case or apply for permission to reenter the United States after a deportation order is issued. Whether it is worth trying either of these options depends on the specifics of your case and your personal circumstances, so it’s important to start out by talking to an experienced immigration attorney about your history and your current situation.
- If your deportation order occurred years ago, you may still have a chance to reopen your case.
- If you do not understand what happened in your case or believe that a mistake may have been made in how it was handled, your immigration attorney can request a copy of your case file, review it, and go over options with you.
- If you were barred from applying for legal status because of a criminal offense, it is worth looking into reopening your criminal case. Talk to a criminal attorney with experience in post-conviction relief to find out your options.
While we are still working to get Olga’s immigration case reopened, we are happy to have been successful in reopening two previous deportation orders for clients so that they could apply for legal status that also illustrate some useful points:
I did not get notice of a hearing and was ordered deported because I failed to appear at my hearing
In one of our other cases, our client did not know that he had been scheduled for a hearing, so he did not attend his hearing in immigration court. Failure to attend a hearing results in a deportation order being entered against you for failing to appear (called an “in absentia order”).
The hearing notice for our client’s case had been sent to an old address. When his family approached us for help, he had been taken into ICE custody and they were blindsided by the news that he had been ordered deported years before. Fortunately, we were able to show that he did not receive notice of his hearing and reopen his case so that he could apply for residence based on his marriage to his wife.
The law has changed since I was ordered deported, can I reopen my case?
Immigration law can be changed by executive order or by Congress passing new laws, but courts can also interpret immigration law, and their interpretations may change your eligibility to stay in the United States. For example, any drug offenses were considered aggravated felony drug trafficking offenses simply because they involved drugs.
This meant that many people were barred from staying in the United States because they were considered ineligible for many forms of relief from removal because they were considered aggravated felons. In 2006, the Supreme Court decided that drug offenses were only aggravated felonies if they involved trafficking of drugs. Possession offenses were no longer aggravated felonies.
This meant that Omid*, who had been ordered deported because of a conviction for possession of cocaine, was now eligible to apply to stay in the United States. However, Omid* had to first reopen his immigration court case so that he could apply to stay here.
This involved filing a motion to reopen based on this change in the interpretation of aggravated felony offenses in immigration law and explaining why several years had passed between the Supreme Court decision and filing his motion. Now, the case is open and he is in the process of applying to stay in the United States.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston
If you have a deportation order, you know the stress and worry that it causes. You probably also know after reading this blog post that whether a deportation order can be reopened involves reviewing and analyzing a lot of information and making decisions even when there are no guarantees about what might happen. But even in difficult circumstances, deportation cases can be reopened and this can mean a second chance to stay in the U.S. If you have a deportation order and want to know your options, contact an experienced immigration attorney so you can go over your immigration history and personal circumstances.
*All names have been changed to protect confidentiality and privacy.