Living in the U.S. without lawful status means that one is always subject to the possibility of deportation. Even if one is in status, they can find themselves in trouble that would make them deportable and then placed in deportation, or removal proceedings. For example, even Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) can be subject to deportation if they commit a crime that makes them deportable. For example, a resident that is convicted of a domestic violence crime or a crime that involved a firearm, can make them deportable and lose their residence status in the U.S.
Depending on the situation, one may have remedies in court that will allow one to keep or obtain lawful status in the U.S. A common defense is to apply for asylum, if that person has fear of returning to their country of origin for fear of persecution. Another common defense is for people who have lived in the U.S. for longer than 10 years and have U.S. citizen parents, spouse, or children in the U.S. that would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship in their absence. Although one may be eligible to present these defenses in removal proceedings, it is not always guaranteed to win. They are both very difficult remedies to win in court, and approvals are very limited.
There are a few more defenses available to those who have already been granted permanent status in the U.S. For example, cancellation of removal is possible for those that have been admitted into status for at least seven years, have not committed an aggravated felony, and merit discretion by the judge. A not so common remedy for residences is what is called a 237(a)(1)(H) waiver, which is a waiver commonly used to waive fraud. This remedy is often used when a child immigrates through a petition filed by a parent, but for some reason that child was not eligible to immigrate under that petition. Generally, the child won’t be eligible because the petition was filed on behalf of a single child over 21, of a LPR, but they marry before they immigrate to the U.S.
Remedies in court are few and far in between, but they are available and they are winnable. If you find yourself in removal proceedings, it is important to talk to a knowledgeable attorney that can protect you from deportation.