Also see FAQ – Know Your Rights – What to do if questioned by Police, FBI, Customs Agents or Immigration Officers

Immigration Detention PDFsave/print (.pdf)

Attention Non-Citizens!

Individuals who enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), as visitors for 90 days, are subject to certain restrictions. Most notably, an individual who entered under the VWP has no right to a hearing before an immigration judge if they become deportable by overstaying their 90 day status or by committing certain crimes. If such an individual comes to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, they will be detained and removed without further ado. No hearing, no waiver, no rights!

You Are At Risk of Deportation If You Have…


You may be deported even if the conviction happened years ago, you have a greencard, or you never went to jail. Consult a lawyer specializing in immigration deportation before you go to the immigration office, leave the country, or try to adjust your status.


You may have no papers or be undocumented if you crossed the border to enter the country, overstayed your visa, came on a false passport, or are in the process of adjusting your status.


Sometimes immigration does not tell you that you have an old deportation order. You may have one if you lost your asylum case, skipped a marriage/adjustment interview or skipped an immigration hearing.

To find out if you have an old order of deportation follow these steps:

  • Find your “Alien Registration Number.” It is on most immigration papers, including the I-94 card on your passport, greencard, or any other document that immigration gives you. The A# looks like: A99 999 999
  • Call 1-800-898-7180. This is the hotline for the immigration court (EOIR).
  • Press “1” for English or “2” for Spanish.
  • Enter the 8 digits of your A-number and listen for instructions. If your number is in the system, then this means that an immigration case existed against you at some time.
  • Press “3” to find out if an immigration judge decided your case, including if there is an order of deportation (“removal”) against you.
  • If the hotline says you have a deportation/removal order, consult a lawyer specializing in immigration deportation before you go to the immigration office, leave the country, or try to adjust your status.

You May Be Detained If…


When you re-enter the US at an airport, seaport, or at the border, immigration agents may do a background check. If you have an old conviction, false papers or a deportation order, you may be detained, charged for trying to enter illegally, and deported.


Police officers do immigration checks often, even if you are not being charged with a crime. They may arrest you and send you to Immigration if you have a prior conviction or old deportation order.

If police stop or arrest you:

  • Ask for a warrant if officers seek to enter your home. You have the right
    to see this document if any officer seeks to enter your home. The warrant
    lists the areas that the officers can search. Note if they enter any other
  • Record who arrested you. Write down the officer(s) name, agency (FBI,
    NYPD, INS), and badge number. Find this information on the officers’ business
    cards, uniforms, and cars.
  • Remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions.
  • DO NOT LIE! Say nothing or say, “I need to speak with a lawyer first.”
  • Do NOT sign any papers without talking with a lawyer first. Officers will try to scare or trick you. Don’t be fooled.
  • Do not give any immigration information. You do not have to tell officers your status in
    the US or your country of origin. By giving this information, you may help
    the government deport you faster.
  • Do NOT take a guilty plea without speaking
    to a lawyer specializing in deportation. Defense lawyers, prosecutors and
    judges are not required to tell you the immigration consequences of a conviction.
  • Make sure your family has your Alien Registration Number. It is on most immigration
    papers and looks like: A99 999 999.


You may be sent to immigration after you complete jail time, probation, a rehabilitation program, boot camp (including NY Shock program). Officers running the jails or programs are not trained in immigration laws, and often give people incorrect information. Do NOT rely on their word. If you have been visited by any immigration officer, or are not a citizen, you may have an immigration detainer.


If you are at risk of deportation and go to Federal Plaza (or any other immigration office), you risk being detained.

People have been deported when they go to pick-up a work permit or greencard, inquire about their citizenship application, or respond to an appointment letter. If you have an order of deportation or past conviction and decide that you must go to an immigration office, call a deportation specialist before you go and follow these tips:

  • Tell a family member or close friend where you are going, and set a time to call them after the visit. If you do not call because you are detained, they should start looking for you (follow steps below).
  • Do NOT take your passport, work permit, travel documents, or greencard. If you must take them, leave items not necessary at home. Give a copy of everything you take to a relative or friend.
  • If you are going in response to an appointment letter, leave a copy of the letter with a relative or friend.

TIPS! If Immigration Detains You or Your Loved One…


Do NOT sign any statements or documents, especially ones giving up your right to an immigration hearing in front of an immigration judge.

If you have an old order of deportation, you will not see a judge and can be deported immediately. Ask for a Notice of Reinstatement of Deportation Order.

Make sure your family members have a copy of your immigration paperwork, including your Notice to Appear (NTA).

If you are able to see an immigration judge and you do not have an attorney, tell the judge that you need more time to find someone to represent you. Do NOT concede or admit to the Immigration Services charges against you. Do NOT go into detail about your case. Anything you say can and will be used against you – even your nationality.

If you think you may be transferred to a detention center far from your home, and you already have a lawyer, have them file an immigration form with DHS saying that they are representing you. This form is called a G-28. You can download it from DHS at Fax the form to the Deportation Officer immediately. This form may convince the officer to stop your transfer.


Keep the following information about your detained loved one:

  • Full name and aliases “Alien Registration Number.” It is on most immigration papers, including the I-94 card on your passport, greencard, or any other document that immigration gives you. The A# looks like: A99 999 999.
  • Date person entered the U.S. and how (visa, cross border, greencard through marriage, etc.)
  • Criminal Record. You must have a list of the precise criminal convictions (e.g. 4th degree Criminal possession of a controlled substance, NYPL §220.09). Include the date of arrest, the place of arrest (City, State), date of conviction, and the sentence. If possible, get a copy of the rap sheet. Get a Certificate of Disposition for each conviction from the court clerk’s office in the courthouse where the criminal case was heard.
  • A copy of your Notice to Appear (NTA) and all other immigration paperwork.
  • Favorable Factors: collect documents showing that the person facing deportation has family, community ties and a “good character” (see Favorable Factors).

If you do not know where your detained loved one is:

Contact the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deport Office (see Phone List below). Ask to speak with a supervisory deport officer. Give them your loved one’s full name and A#. (Note: Deportation officers may be mean and not speak to anyone besides an attorney or the person being deported. You should still try.)

If you need a lawyer…

Hire someone specializing in deportation. Do not get cheated! If the person does real estate, business and immigration, they are most likely not deportation specialists.

Keep with you the full name and contact information of EVERY lawyer that has ever represented you. Get a written contract before you give the lawyer money. The lawyer must give you a “retainer agreement.” Read it thoroughly. Make sure you understand it. Does it make the same promises that the lawyer is telling you? Make sure your family receives a copy of everything your lawyer files. File a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Committee if your lawyer cheated you (see Phone List).