A commonly-asked question is what effect, if any, a person’s travel during removal proceedings could have on the outcome of those particular removal proceedings.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or Board) has addressed this issue. In Matter of Sancho-Herbert the Board stated, citing Matter of Brown, that a person may depart the United States after he or she is placed in removal proceedings without divesting the Immigration Judge of jurisdiction over his or her case. 26 I&N Dec. 43, 44 (BIA 2012); see 18 I&N Dec. 324, 325 (BIA 1982). In other words, removal proceedings previously commenced against an alien are not nullified by his temporary absence from the United States. See Matter of Brown, 18 I&N Dec. at 325.
In Matter of Brown, the alien filed an application for relief under former section 212(c) of the Act, departed the United States and returned. The Immigration Judge held that he had abandoned his application upon his departure. The Board disagreed; holding that he was permitted to resume his application upon his return. Thus, case law on this issue indicates that an alien’s departure does not constitute abandonment of any application for relief and that, clearly, an alien’s departure during removal proceedings does not qualify as any sort of implicit acceptance of an order of removal.
Before initiating any potential travel during the course of your removal proceedings, however, keep several things in mind. The first is that you must return in time for any scheduled hearing because, if you fail to show, you could be ordered removed in absentia. The second is that your removal proceedings may not prove to be your only issue when travel is involved. When an alien departs the United States and attempts to return he or she must be inspected by an immigration officer. An alien’s immigration status, if any, and criminal record may affect whether the immigration officer will admit the alien, or even parole the alien into the United States to attend his or her removal hearing.