Confronting deportation proceedings while serving time in prison can be a formidable and intricate journey. The aim of this guide is to simplify the deportation process into a sequence of manageable steps, furnishing inmates with a comprehensive comprehension of what to anticipate at each stage. It is of paramount importance for inmates to be cognizant of their rights and choices during this formidable expedition. Let us delve into the step-by-step process of deportation proceedings for inmates in the United States.

Step 1: Arrest and Custody

Typically, the deportation process commences with an apprehension by immigration authorities. Inmates may find themselves detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers while serving a sentence for a criminal conviction or during a routine check of their immigration status. At this juncture:

Inmates have the prerogative to maintain silence and abstain from responding to inquiries concerning their immigration status.
They possess the liberty to contact an attorney or legal representative.

Step 2: Notice to Appear (NTA)

Subsequent to detention by ICE, inmates will be furnished with a “Notice to Appear” (NTA), elucidating the grounds for their deportation and the charges against them. It is of utmost significance to meticulously peruse this document as it will serve as the foundation of their deportation case.

Inmates ought to consult with an immigration attorney to fathom the charges and potential defenses.
They maintain the right to petition for an immigration bond hearing to seek release from detention.

Step 3: Bond Hearing

During the bond hearing, inmates can petition for release from detention while their deportation case is pending. Considerations such as the risk of flight and potential danger to the community will be taken into account when adjudicating whether to grant bond.

Inmates may be obligated to furnish substantiating evidence of their community ties and their ability to attend forthcoming immigration court hearings.
The decision to grant bond is discretionary and hinges on a multitude of factors.

Step 4: Master Calendar Hearing

The inaugural court appearance in immigration proceedings is the Master Calendar Hearing. During this hearing:

Inmates are apprised of their rights, charges, and available avenues of relief.
They can enter a plea to the charges or request an extension to prepare their case.
Inmates should have legal representation present to advocate on their behalf.

Step 5: Individual Merits Hearing

In the event an inmate challenges their impending deportation, they will proceed to an Individual Merits Hearing. At this stage:

The inmate proffers evidence and calls witnesses in substantiation of their case.
The government may introduce evidence and present witnesses as well.
The immigration judge assesses the evidence and renders a determination, either granting relief or issuing a deportation order.

Step 6: Appeals

In the event that an inmate is the recipient of an unfavorable verdict at the Individual Merits Hearing, they may have the recourse to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). This stage encompasses:

Filing a Notice of Appeal within the prescribed timeframe.
Formulating a legal brief outlining the grounds for the appeal.
The BIA will review the case and render a decision.

Step 7: Post-Deportation Options

In the event that an inmate is unsuccessful in contesting their deportation order, there may still exist some avenues to explore:

Pursuing relief through federal court by lodging a habeas corpus petition.
Embarking on a motion to reopen or reconsider the immigration case predicated on fresh evidence or legal inaccuracies.
Exploring the prospect of deferred action or prosecutorial discretion.
Inmates should seek the counsel of a seasoned immigration attorney to ascertain the feasibility of these options.

Inmate Rights and Options

Throughout the deportation process, inmates are endowed with specific rights and choices that are pivotal to comprehend:

Right to Legal Representation: Inmates possess the liberty to retain an immigration attorney or seek pro bono legal aid. Legal representation is indispensable for navigating the intricate web of immigration laws and mounting a robust defense.

Right to Maintain Silence: Inmates maintain the right to remain silent when engaging with immigration authorities. Any utterance can be employed against them in immigration court.

Right to Appeal: Inmates have the right to appeal an adverse verdict to higher authorities, including the BIA or federal court.

Right to Pursue Relief: Inmates may qualify for an assortment of forms of relief from deportation, such as asylum, cancellation of removal, or adjustment of status. Identifying potential relief options is a pivotal facet of the defense strategy.

Right to Bond: Inmates have the right to request a bond hearing to seek release from detention. A successful bond hearing can afford them the opportunity to continue their legal battle while not in custody.

Right to Due Process: Inmates are entitled to due process rights during immigration proceedings, guaranteeing an equitable and unbiased hearing.

Right to Consular Notification: In the event that an inmate is a foreign national, they possess the right to notify their home country’s consulate or embassy of their detention.

Inmate Resources

Inmates confronting deportation proceedings should take advantage of the available resources to effectively navigate the process:

Legal Representation: Seek legal counsel from adept immigration attorneys or organizations specializing in immigration defense.

Supportive Services: Certain detention facilities offer support services, including legal resource centers and access to pro bono attorneys.

Consular Assistance: Reach out to your home country’s consulate or embassy for assistance and information.

Family and Community Support: Enlist the support of family members and friends in your legal proceedings. They can provide emotional and logistical support.

Know Your Rights: Educate yourself about your rights and the immigration process to make informed decisions.


Traversing deportation proceedings while incarcerated may be arduous, but comprehending the step-by-step process and being cognizant of your rights and choices are indispensable for mounting a robust defense. Inmates should seek legal representation promptly to craft a comprehensive strategy and explore all conceivable avenues for relief. Through awareness and proactive engagement, inmates can heighten their likelihood of securing a favorable resolution to their deportation cases.