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Illegal Reentry into the U.S. After Removal: Crime and Punishment

After an alien has been legally "removed" from the United States, federal criminal law makes it a felony for that alien to reenter (or be found in) the country without approval of the government.

What Constitutes "Illegal Reentry"?

Under the applicable federal criminal statute, the Immigration and Nationality Act, it is not merely illegal reentry after removal that constitutes the crime. Rather, the law applies to any alien who reenters the U.S. or is found within the country, without government approval, after having been:

  • Denied admission to the U.S.;

  • Excluded from the U.S.;

  • Deported from the U.S.;

  • Removed from the U.S.; or

  • Departed from the U.S. while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding.

Penalties for Illegal Reentry

Under relevant federal statutes, an alien who commits illegal reentry as described above will be punished with:

  • A fine; or

  • Imprisonment for not more than two years; or

  • Both fine and imprisonment.

Penalty Enhancements for Prior Criminal Convictions

If the alien reenters or is found in the U.S. without government approval, after a criminal felony conviction for a non-aggravated felony, or after three or more misdemeanor convictions for drug-related crimes or crimes against persons, he or she is subject punishment by:

  • A fine; or

  • Imprisonment for not more than 10 years; or

  • Both fine and imprisonment

For aliens reentering or found in the U.S. without government approval, after a criminal conviction for an aggravated felony, the statutory maximum term of imprisonment is 20 years. Other criminal penalty increases may be imposed for aliens who have been removed after certain kinds of incarceration, and aliens deemed to be associated with terrorism.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help
with deportation or removal proceedings.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)