According to the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), an alien deported from the United States cannot lawfully reenter for 5 years, or 20 years for a second removal.  An alien who violates theses exclusion periods may be ordered removed again if they try to reenter the country.  While removal proceedings are not criminal, lengthy jail sentences may be imposed for repeat offenders.  For example, a man was recently sentenced to 45 months in prison by a federal judge for trying to reenter the U.S. 6 times in 4 years.

Border patrol officers are now given great discretion to turn back undocumented aliens without a judicial hearing, if there is a reasonable likelihood an alien is lying about his or her identity and lacks any valid documentation.  Proponents of this say that it saves the court system from overcrowding, but naysayers say that this violates the immigrants’ due process rights. 

What Can Immigrants Do If Accused of Illegal Reentry?

Generally, deportations of aliens living peaceably in the U.S. are relatively rare.  If a person is under threat of deportation, authorities will generally allow the person to voluntarily depart, which may prevent future restrictions on lawful reentry. 

The 5 and 20 year restrictions can be avoided if the alien files a special application with the Attorney General. Applications are generally unsuccessful absent a good reason, such as miscarriage of justice or emergency asylum.  In order to qualify, the immigrant should fill out an I-212 form, the form required if an immigrant wishes to legally enter the country after being deported.

Immigrants can try to argue that the original deportation order was invalid.  However, immigration courts usually consider the book closed after a deportation is ordered, such that any records of deportation proceedings are not subject to being reopened or reviewed, absent a “gross miscarriage of justice.”

Many deportation cases center on a crime that the undocumented alien is accused of committing.  A deported alien, if convicted of an aggravated felony, is forever banished from the U.S. If the immigrant is accused of a crime, they do have the right to an attorney before the decision for deportation is made.

Should I See an Attorney About Reentering the U.S. After My Removal / Deportation?

An immigration attorney will be able to advise you of all the possible methods to legally avoid deportation, or reenter the U.S. after you have been removed.