If you’ve been living and working in the U.S. without documentation, regardless of your country of origin, you’re at risk of being deported if someone reports you. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division may not act on the report they receive, they could—and that could spell trouble for you and your family.
Prosecutorial Discretion and ICE
If Immigration and Customs Enforcement does choose to act on a tip they’ve received about you, they can exercise what’s known as prosecutorial discretion. That means they’ll look at your situation, including your history of work and family life in the U.S. and whether you have family ties to U.S. citizens.
From there, ICE can decide whether to initiate removal proceedings against you; that’s the process commonly known as deportation.
If ICE chooses to initiate removal proceedings, you may be arrested. You’ll then have to appear in immigration court (you’ll get a “Notice to Appear,” or NTA, which describes the charges against you, and gives you a date on which you’re supposed to show up for your first court appearance).
At your court appearance, you can ask for what’s called a Merits Hearing—that’s where you can defend yourself against deportation.
If you’d like to learn more about removal proceedings for people who have entered the U.S. without the proper documentation, check out:
- ICE detention facilities
- ICE guidance on removal proceedings for aliens with pending or approved applications or petitions
- ICE removal proceedings
- Prosecutorial discretion memo from ICE
You may have legal recourse against deportation if you’re here in the U.S. after following the proper immigration procedures.