Florida Immigration Law: 6 Possible Deportation Defenses

Has the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered you to appear in immigration court? If so, don’t start packing your bags just yet. Your Notice to Appear (NTA) may state that you are “removable” (or deportable) from the United States, but you still have a chance to avoid deportation.

When DHS wants to deport you, it must include the reason in your NTA. The two most common reasons for deportation are criminal conviction and “unauthorized presence,” meaning you are in the United States illegally. If you risk being deported for such a reason, you may be able to use one of the following defenses or get relief from removal to stay in the country.

  1. Mistakes in the notice. Even the DHS can make mistakes. Take a close look at your NTA to make sure your date and method of entry into the US are correct.
  2. Contesting your removability. Even if you’re undocumented, the DHS still has to prove that you are removable with the right documents. If they don’t have enough evidence, or if you were served an NTA for the wrong reasons, the immigration judge may close your case.
  3. Adjusting your status. If you entered the United States legally and meet other specific requirements, you may be able to change your status from “nonimmigrant” to “immigrant,” allowing you to stay in the US as a permanent resident. Although green cards are usually issued outside of removal proceedings, you may be able to use one as a deportation defense, if you’re successful. Generally, an approved visa petition—whether it’s family-based or employment-based—must serve as the basis for your application.
  4. Cancelling your removal. If you can meet certain requirements, you may be able to get a “cancellation of removal” either as a permanent resident or a non-permanent resident. You may have to prove things like your length of stay in the US, your good moral character, your lack of a criminal background, and the existence of a direct family member who would suffer without your presence.
  5. Cancellation under VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows for certain victims of violence to cancel their deportation proceedings. Applicants must show that a “qualifying relative” has subjected them to abuse or “extreme cruelty,” in addition to proving they have good moral character and have been physically present in the US for three years, among other requirements.
  6. Requesting asylum. You may be able to request asylum, “withholding of removal,” or both in cases where it would be dangerous for you to return to your home country. You’ll have to show a judge that you are likely to be persecuted by the government of your home country (or that you have been persecuted already) under certain grounds.

There is no all-encompassing, sure-fire way to defend against deportation. When your ability to stay in the United States is at stake, you should immediately contact an experienced attorney who understands criminal defense and immigration cases. At Rotella & Hernandez, we have experience and insight into what we call “crimmigration,” or the intersection of criminal and immigration law. Call us for personalized legal counsel when you need it most.

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