This Chapter explains special issues affecting noncitizens, regardless of your immigration status. While Root & Rebound does not specialize in immigration law, this chapter is designed to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the ways in which contact with the criminal justice system could impact your status in the U.S. This chapter does not contain information related to your rights in deportation or other immigration proceedings. If you need assistance with such matters, speak to an immigration attorney right away. For a list of referrals, see PG. 1134.

Key terms in the immigration chapter

Noncitizen—someone without U.S. citizenship. In this chapter, we use “noncitizen” to cover a variety of immigration statuses, including Lawful Permanent Residents, visa holders, refugees, and undocumented persons. These terms, as well as other noncitizen status, are defined below.

Lawful Permanent Resident—also known as a “green card holder,” a lawful permanent resident has permission from the federal government to live permanently in the U.S.[3445]

Visa—a government-issued endorsement allowing a citizen of a foreign country to enter, leave, or stay in the U.S.[3446] Visas are generally divided into two categories: immigrant visas are issued to people wishing to live permanently in the U.S., while nonimmigrant visas are issued to people wishing to come the U.S. temporarily for a particular purpose, such as tourism, business, or study.[3447]

Refugee—is a person granted protected status in the U.S. due to their membership in a group that is the subject of persecution in their home country. Unlike a person seeking asylum (see below), a refugee must seek referral for this status from outside the U.S.[3448]

Undocumented Person—sometimes called an “undocumented alien,” this is someone who entered the U.S. without legal documents, or who entered the U.S. legally but violated the terms of their visa.[3449]

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—a program introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama in order to prevent the deportation of people who were brought to the U.S. as children. DACA participants have permission to remain in the country and get work permits, despite not being citizens.[3450]

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)—a form of temporary protection available to people from certain countries (or parts of countries) who are unable to return due to extreme temporary instability in their countries of origin, including war, natural disasters, and epidemics. TPS beneficiaries are not removable from the U.S. while their home country remains unstable.[3451]

Naturalization—the process by which a person obtains U.S. citizenship.[3452]

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over criminal violations of U.S. laws related to travel and immigration.

Detainer—an order that a person in custody be held for a certain period of time after release so that another law enforcement agency can decide whether to pick them up to face pending charges.

Removal Proceedings—the legal process for deciding whether the government can remove someone from the U.S.

  1. 3445

    U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, “Lawful Permanent Residents” (Dec. 18, 2017), available at

  2. 3446

    U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, “Glossary: Visa,” available

  3. 3447

    U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, “What is the difference between an Immigrant Visa vs. a Nonimmigrant Visa?” (Mar. 9, 2017), available at

  4. 3448

    U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Refugees & Asylum,” available at See also Immigration and Nationality Act § 101(a)15P(42)(A).

  5. 3449

    IRS, “Immigration Terms and Definitions Involving Aliens,” available at

  6. 3450

    N.Y. Times, “What is DACA? Who Are the Dreamers? Here Are Some Answers” (Jan. 23, 2018), available at

  7. 3451

    U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Temporary Protected Status,” available at

  8. 3452

    U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Citizenship Through Naturalization,” available at