What Happens to Deported Illegal Aliens Who Come Back?

Sergio Jose Martinez is an illegal alien from Mexico. He viciously raped two women in Portland, Oregon, this past July. One of the victims was 65 years old. When the court sentenced him to 31 to 35 years of jail time, he reportedly told observers in the courtroom that he would see them in hell.

Martinez sounds like the type of guy who should be deported after serving his sentence. There’s only one problem. He already has been, at least 20 times. How can that happen? Sadly it’s all too common. Here’s the problem:

  • The U.S. Immigration Court enters deportation orders against illegal aliens and other immigration violators following an immigration hearing.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for physically removing illegal aliens and other immigration violators from the United States.
  • When ICE encounters deportees who are subject to a final order of removal and who have unlawfully returned to the United States, it can usually re-deport them without any additional hearings.

But that’s all it can do – re-deport them. And aside from the diligent efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol, there’s very little to keep deportees from returning to the U.S.

However, there is a tool available to federal prosecutors that can break this vicious cycle. As FAIR has previously reported, federal law makes reentering the United States after deportation a federal crime. If an alien was deported for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, the sentence for reentry is imprisonment for a maximum of 20 years.

The U.S. Attorneys – the federal equivalent of a District Attorney – are responsible for filing criminal charges against previously deported aliens who return to the United States. However, the relatively light sentences that federal courts impose for criminal re-entry tend to discourage U.S. Attorneys from prosecuting all but the most egregious cases.

The net result is that dangerous criminals like Martinez and Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the illegal alien who shot and killed Kate Steinle aren’t afraid to sneak back into the U.S. after ICE deports them. But they should be – criminal laws are supposed to deter would-be offenders from committing crimes, in addition to prescribing punishments for their transgressions.

President Trump has taken a number of positive steps toward returning our immigration system to the rule of law. In order to make his actions more effective, he should instruct his U.S. Attorneys to begin prosecuting removal charges against every criminal re-entrant that ICE can locate. Maybe when enough criminal re-entrants wind up facing hard time in U.S. prisons, they’ll get the message that there’s a new sheriff in town and their unlawful presence will no longer be tolerated.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    White Nationlism is just another way of trying to SHAME Good USA citizens to give their country away to illegals who want the good life. Free education , health benefits for children (chip) and freebies for all anchor babies who are citizens when they are born. Brown power is on it’s way! Elect Latinos and they will shame them for sure. Damn white folks are so dumb and make life better for illegals who are just DREAMING of better life! Funny!

  2. avatar

    Place tracking chip where it would be hard to be removed in the body of criminals deported for tracking if they return to the US. SECOND DEPORTATION TOO.

  3. avatar

    washington post is apparently staffed with race baiters or just a bunch of over educated idiots,probably both–the wall =border security for our nation period–the wall will not be physical wall along the whole border but combination of wall in border towns where drones would be handicap . drones and ground sensors and boots on ground where there are no walls in combination not 100% full proof heck lot better then what is being done last few decades–thanks to past presidents and congress isis and like are already hear this also helps fight drug war and cartels who are terrorist as well. we have improve security on all borders not just texas & mexican border although that is the biggest leak our ship has

  4. Pingback: Washington Post Says Support for Wall = “White Nationalism”