In their 2003 discourse on deportation, Matthew J. Gibney and Randall Hansen refer to deportation as “the return of foreign nationals to their country of origin against their will” (p. 2). Deportation is therefore involuntary return, distinct from voluntary return, in which individuals are encouraged—often through a combination of carrot-and-stick measures—to return to their countries of origin. Matthew Walzer and Gary Freeman explain that deportation can be viewed both as a concept and as a policy that allows democratic states the right to exercise control over their borders, a key component of the sovereignty of nation-states. Indeed, deportation is conducted by a public authority on behalf of the state.

As part of their work on deportation, Bridget Anderson, Matthew J. Gibney, and Emanuela Paoletti submitted that in recent years states across the world have boosted their legal and institutional capacity to deport noncitizens residing in their territory, including failed asylum seekers, “illegal” migrants, and convicted criminals. The authors note that scholars have analyzed this development primarily through the lens of immigration control and point out that deportation has been viewed as one among a range of measures designed to control entrance, distinguished primarily by the fact that it is exercised inside the territory of the state. The authors note that deportation also has broader social and political effects, as it provides a powerful way through which the state reminds noncitizens that their presence in the polity is contingent on acceptable behavior. This entry describes the process of deportation, including grounds for removal, and then discusses the consequences of deportation.


Deportation of persons is usually done from large, developed countries (e.g., the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada) to small, less powerful, underdeveloped or developing countries (e.g., Cambodia, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica). However, it is increasingly becoming the norm for small, underdeveloped or developing countries in the contemporary world to use deportation as a means of protecting their scarce financial resources from perceived abuse by nonnationals.

The process of moving a nonresident from a host country to the nonresident’s country of origin can be complex and varies from country to country. The rationale for removal may also vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; however, there are many steps common among the removal processes in various countries. Deportation is not always final, as there are opportunities for relief from deportation that are available to the prospective deportee.

The process of deportation is usually started by the issuance of a deportation order by a magistrate or immigration judge. This requires the nonresident to appear before the magistrate or immigration judge in order to determine whether he or she has any legal grounds for remaining in the jurisdiction. If the magistrate or immigration judge is satisfied that there are no legal grounds for the nonresident to remain in the country, he or she will issue an order of deportation, which is then enforced. If there are legal grounds for the nonresident to remain in the country, the magistrate or immigration judge may stay the order or discontinue the matter. Typically, the deportation order is devoid of any form of punishment being imposed.

Persons awaiting deportation are usually housed at detention centers, unless they are imprisoned for the commission of a criminal offense and are awaiting deportation. Generally, deportation is triggered in a variety of ways; these methods may differ in nature and scope. The most common ways are discussed in the following section.

Grounds for Removal

There are many grounds for the deportation of a nonresident from the deporting country to the country of origin. The literature on deportation has provided numerous grounds on which persons may be deported, which vary from country to country. The following is a compilation of these grounds; however, this list is not exhaustive:

Despite a nonresident being deportable, there are several types of relief from deportation that may allow the individual to stay in the deporting country. For example, in many countries, a nonresident subject to deportation proceedings may request discretionary relief at any time before an immigration judge or magistrate enters the final order. Importantly, nonresidents may have the burden of proving eligibility for relief under the law or that they deserve such relief as an exercise of discretion. Some of the most common methods of relief are cancellation of deportation, adjustment of status, and asylum.


For men and women who are deported, there are several consequences of deportation, including social, economic, and political consequences. According to Randy Capps in his discourse on deportation, the consequences of deportation are felt by the deported individual as well as the individual’s partner and children and include the indignity of separation from family and home, economic and social instability, psychological trauma, material hardship, residential instability, family dissolution, increased use of public benefits, and aggression (primarily among boys).

Researchers such as Ajay Chaudry and colleagues, Drika Weller Makariev and Phillip R. Shaver, and Heather Koball and colleagues point out that the consequences of deportation include family economic hardship, social isolation and depression, mental health issues, strained parent-children relationships, anxiety, and self-destructive activities such as cutting and substance abuse. However, the major consequence of deportation falls on the deported individual, who becomes permanently separated from or loses contact with family, including children. In addition, deported individuals must resettle in their country of origin, which may now be alien to them in terms of culture, lifestyle, infrastructure, governance systems, familial connection, education, way of life, and economic opportunities, after having spent their formative years residing in the host country. Researchers Kalina M. Brabeck, M. Brinton Lykes, and Cristina Hunter posit that some deported individuals face high levels of stigma on returning to their countries of origin, are treated with scorn and derision by family and friends in their country of origin, or are viewed by their communities of origin and/or their own families as failures or as criminals, while others are isolated or live on the streets, which may result in their death. David Brotherton and Luis Barrios point out that deported individuals may also experience employment difficulties, feelings of demoralization, and readjustment and discrimination issues.

Joanna Dreby points out that for women, deportation is an act that forces them (especially single mothers) into difficult situations due to their primary roles as caretakers and providers. Brabeck, Lykes, and Hunter, as well as Angela M. Robertson and colleagues, point out that deportation increases women’s criminogenic risks for prostitution as well as a range of assaults (physical and sexual) in the context of financial insecurity and weak policing in their countries of origin.

In most developing and underdeveloped countries, there is a chronic lack of tailored support for deported individuals on their return to their countries of origin. Moreover, a system of bans aimed at preventing them from returning to the deporting country may be in place. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, these bans are final, whereas other countries (e.g., New Zealand, the United Kingdom) operate on a system of graduated bans. Instructively, the workability of deportation is becoming increasingly questioned by scholars who view it in the context of “one country’s deportee becoming another country’s problem.”

Wendell Codrington Wallace

See also Immigration

Further Readings

Anderson, Bridget, et al., eds. The Social, Political and Historical Contours of Deportation. New York, NY: Springer, 2013.

Bleichmar, Javier. “Deportation as Punishment: A Historical Analysis of the British Practice of Banishment and Its Impact on Modern Constitutional Law.” Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, v.14 (1999).

Brabeck, Kalina M., et al. “The Psychosocial Impact of Detention and Deportation on U.S. Migrant Children and Families.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, v. 84./5 (2014).

Brotherton, David and Luis Barrios. Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2011.

Chaudry, Ajay, et al.Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2010.

Freeman, Gary. “The Decline of Sovereignty?” In Christian Joppke (ed.), Challenge to the Nation-State: Immigration in Western Europe and the United States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Gibney, Matthew J. and Randall Hansen. Deportation and the Liberal State: The Forcible Return of Asylum Seekers and Unlawful Migrants in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom (New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper No. 77). Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, 2003.

Kelle, Brad E., et al. Interpreting Exile: Displacement and Deportation in Biblical and Modern Contexts: 2012. Atlanta, GA: Brill Academic, 2012.

Koball, Heather, et al. Health and Social Service Needs of U.S.-Citizen Children With Detained or Deported Immigrant Parents. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2015.

Makariev, Drika Weller and Phillip R. Shaver. “Attachment, Parental Incarceration, and Possibilities for Intervention.” Attachment and Human Development, v.12 (2010).

Moloney, Deirdre M. “Muslims, Mormons and U.S. Deportation and Exclusion Policies: The 1910 Polygamy Controversy and the Shaping of Contemporary Attitudes.” In Bridget Anderson, et al. (eds.),The Social, Political and Historical Contours of Deportation. New York, NY: Springer, 2013.

Robertson, Angela M., et al. “Deportation Experiences of Women Who Inject Drugs in Tijuana, Mexico.” Qualitative Health Research, v.22 (2012).

Walzer, Michael. Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1983.