Many people are under the mistaken belief that deportation is a form of punishment. While it may feel like punishment to the person who has to experience it, deportation is actually a form of restitution, which is a legal term that describes a return to the status quo. If a citizen from another country enters the United States and commits a removable offense (an offense that would warrant a deportation), then an immigration judge may order the foreign citizen removed from the country and back to his or her country of origin. This is considered a form of restitution to any individuals who may have been victimized by an offense committed by a foreign citizen, and to society as a whole, which the courts have a duty to serve.
No Punishment, No Right to Counsel
Because deportation / removal hearings are not considered criminal proceedings where punishments are handed down, but administrative proceedings where the loss of freedom is not a potential consequence, immigrants called to appear for a expulsion hearing are not guaranteed the right to counsel. This is the opposite of the criminal legal system which will assign counsel when the accused cannot afford his or her own, but immigrants in deportation / removal hearings still have the right to retain their own counsel, at personal expense, to represent their interests and fight for a cancellation of deportation orders.
It is important to note that everyone in the United States, whether citizen or immigrant, illegal alien or lawful permanent resident, has the right to legal counsel if accused of a criminal offense, which is generally any offense punishable by time in jail or prison. It is only in expulsion hearings and certain other administrative hearings that the right to counsel is not guaranteed.
Always Better to Talk to an Attorney
No matter what an immigrant may think of his or her chances of defeating a expulsion / removal order, it is always better for anyone faced with the risk of deportation to secure legal counsel. An experienced immigration attorney can help the immigrant by speaking on his or her behalf throughout deportation proceedings and presenting a competent argument in favor of cancelling the deportation order.
In addition, foreign citizens in the United States should understand that they can always seek legal advice from an immigration attorney, no matter what their legal status in the United States might be. Most immigration attorneys will not ask individuals who are seeking legal advice about their status unless it is absolutely essential to providing legal assistance. It is always better to get information regarding American immigration laws than to make important legal decisions with wrong or misunderstood information.
Since an attorney is not guaranteed in expulsion hearings, immigrants facing expulsion who think that they might not be able to afford legal counsel should still make contact with an experienced attorney. Even if the attorney is unable to provide services, he or she will usually be able to refer interested parties to other attorneys or organizations that can provide the assistance they need. Fortunately, however, many immigration attorneys are willing to work with individual clients on matters of payment.