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How is a noncitizen placed in removal proceedings?

A business man holding a "removed" card

A removal case is commenced when a government law enforcement agent which is either an Immigration Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection agent discover the immigration law violation by the noncitizen. This could happen at a border checkpoint where the border patrol officer discovers criminal history during a routine inspection or catches the noncitizen attempting to enter the United States attempting to deceive the officer. We have discussed the different stages of a removal proceeding here.


If the encounter happens in the United States, the discovery of the violation can occur during the process when the noncitizen is renewing his immigration status or applying to change status, where the examining officer discovers the violation and refers to Customs Enforcement agents to arrest the noncitizen.


Customs Enforcement agents can also monitor criminal court proceedings and in some local jurisdictions may be informed by local law enforcement of an individual suspected of not possessing legal status in the United States or to be in temporary immigration status who has committed a potentially deportable offense.


Once an officer confirms that the noncitizen has violated an immigration law, the officer will detain the noncitizen and eventually issue what is called a Notice to Appear which is filed with an immigration court to commence the removal process.

What if I am stopped by an immigration agent?

Similar to being stopped by any law enforcement officer. You have the right to remain silent. You should maintain that right by refusing to provide information related to your immigration status if you do not have legal status in the United States and avoid any comment or admission to a violation of any law whether the law violated is based on criminal or immigration law. Note that if you possess legal status, you should disclose your status to an immigration official, but you should still not admit to any violation of law.

Is detention by an immigration enforcement agent mean automatic removal?

Most likely no. As previously mentioned, noncitizens of the United States do have a right to defend his case before an immigration judge.

Another issue to be aware however, is whether you have been in a removal proceeding in the past where you received a removal order in the past. These old removal orders most likely do not go away and if issued in the past, an immigration agent can execute that order and deport you without seeing an immigration judge.

It is important to keep in mind that defending against a removal case is a complex process and we strongly advise consulting with an immigration attorney to discuss whether your case can be defended as well as discussing options for potential release from being detained by an immigration enforcement officer.

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