Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to Table of Contents

The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Removal of Aliens Issued Final Orders

Report Number I-2003-004
February 2003


The Alien Removal Process

The processing of aliens after they are apprehended can follow several paths. Figure A depicts the INS's apprehension, detention, and removal process for aliens.

[Figure A is not available electronically]
Source: INS Detention & Removal Service Program, Critical Influences on INS Detention, May 2001, p.4, and OIG analysis.

Illegal aliens who are not removed under expedited procedures, those who do not leave voluntarily, and those residing in the United States are apprehended and processed through the immigration system. The apprehending officer completes the initial paperwork and creates a record that serves as the basis for the INS's Detention and Removal (D&R) office to begin its alien case tracking process. Of particular importance is the Notice to Appear, which informs aliens about the immigration process and orders them to appear before an Immigration Judge for a hearing to determine their eligibility to remain in the United States.

D&R staff decide whether or not to detain the aliens pending their hearings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Normally, the INS detains aliens with criminal backgrounds, those who are a flight risk, those with mental illnesses, and those with dangerous physical illnesses, like contagious diseases. Other aliens are nondetained, the term for aliens who are either never taken into custody or who are released from custody on bond, on their own recognizance, or on parole. At any point in the process, the D&R staff or an Immigration Judge can decide to release an alien.
Select Types of Temporary Relief

Temporary Protected Status for Nationals of Designated States (P. L. 101-649). This law authorized the Attorney General to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to aliens from countries experiencing upheaval, during which time eligible aliens will not be removed, even if subject to a final order.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). By Executive Order or Presidential Memorandum, the President may grant aliens from select foreign countries temporary protection from removal from the United States for political or humanitarian reasons.

The D&R provides copies of appropriate documents to the EOIR and INS trial attorneys. The INS trial attorneys schedule court hearings with the EOIR and the hearing information is mailed to the aliens. At the hearing, an Immigration Judge examines the aliens' claims, and either allows them to remain in the United States or orders them removed. Aliens ordered removed may either waive their appeal rights or appeal the Immigration Judge's decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals and, under limited circumstances, to the Federal Courts. In addition, certain aliens may be eligible to seek temporary relief from being removed under different authorities (see Select Types of Temporary Relief box).

Once removal decisions are final, including expiration of any appeal periods or grants of temporary relief, the INS attempts to obtain travel documents to the destination country so the removal order may be executed. Nondetained aliens are given time to arrange their affairs, after which they may be required to surrender to the INS for removal. Nondetained aliens may also be granted Voluntary Departure. Under Voluntary Departure, Immigration Judges and INS District Directors can allow aliens up to 120 days to exit the United States on their own (up to 60 days at the conclusion of removal proceedings and not to exceed 120 days prior to the completion). Aliens granted Voluntary Departure are required to report their arrival in their home country to a United States embassy.