deportation, expulsion of an alien from a country by an act of its government. The term is not applied ordinarily to sending a national into exile or to committing one convicted of crime to an overseas penal colony (historically called transportation). In international law the right to send an alien to the country to which he or she owes allegiance (or to any country that will accept him or her) derives from a government's sovereignty. In the United States, deportation is the responsibility of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Dept. of Homeland Security.
Except under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 there was no American deportation law until the enactment in 1882 of a statute aimed at certain Chinese immigrants. The class of deportable aliens was subsequently enlarged several times, coming to include persons who before their entry into the United States were insane, feeble-minded, illiterate, or diseased in various ways. Many foreigners suspected of involvement in radical political activity were deported during the "Red Scare" of 1919. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 removed the statute of limitations on any kind of deportation.
The largest group of deported persons are those who have entered the country illegally. In the 1980s and 1990s expulsion of some of the numerous refugees from such Caribbean countries as Cuba and Haiti raised controversy. A deported alien cannot reenter the United States without special permission from the attorney general.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.