If a non-citizen has been subjected to removal or deportation from the U.S., they are generally prohibited from returning to the U.S. for the purposes of reentering the country.
Thus, illegal reentry refers to any attempt to enter the U.S. after a person has been removed or deported from the country. It should be noted, however, that the Immigration and Nationality Act defines illegal reentry very broadly.
Reentry is considered to be illegal if the person attempts to enter the U.S. without government approval after:
- Being denied admission into the country
- Being excluded from the U.S.
- Being removed or deported from the U.S.
- Departing from the U.S. while an order for deportation, removal, or exclusion is still outstanding
Thus, illegal reentry can occur even if the person has not previously been formally subjected to removal proceedings.
Illegal or improper reentry is considered to be a serious offense and can result in the following legal consequences:
- Heavy monetary fines, or
- Imprisonment (not to exceed 10 years), or
- Both fines and jail time
Also, being convicted of illegal reentry can serious hamper your ability to re-enter the U.S. at a future date.
For example, visa applications always require you to disclose any prior criminal convictions as well as any violations connected with immigration proceedings. If your record reflects that you were previously convicted of illegal reentry, your application might be denied.
Prior criminal convictions can result in what is known as “penalty enhancement”. This means that if you are convicted of illegal reentry, you will be subject to greater legal penalties than if you had a clean criminal record. This is especially true if the prior convictions involved some sort of felony charge.
If a person reenters the U.S. illegally and they have a prior aggravated felony conviction, the maximum imprisonment term is 20 years rather than 10 years. Also, penalty enhancements exist for aliens who have been removed due to terrorism charges or after special types of incarceration.
If you or a loved one feels that you have been wrongfully charged with illegal reentry, you should contact an immigration lawyer. Your attorney can assess your case to determine whether any defenses are available to you.