My relative has a green card. So why is he being held by Immigration at the airport?

My relative has a green card. So why is he being held by Immigration at the airport?

I am often contacted by immigrant families wondering why their permanent resident-relative is being detained at an airport or other port of entry by Customs and Border Protection.  In Texas, for example, green card-holders are often held up for secondary inspection at Dallas’s DFW Airport, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and San Antonio International Airport.  These travelers are often on their way back from a brief trip abroad.  Motorists and pedestrians are also sometimes detained at border crossing points, like Laredo, Texas, and Hidalgo, Texas.

With good reason, those same families are shocked that their relative is being detained and treated like a criminal.  There are several reasons a person with a green card may be detained by Customs at a port of entry — most of which relate to the person’s criminal history.  But why — one might ask — is a resident even treated as applying for admission if they have already been admitted into the United States?

Even Green Card Holders Can Be Stopped At The Border By Immigration

Green card holders are not entitled to the same rights as U.S. citizens — such as living indefinitely in the U.S. — and so the term “lawful permanent resident” can be slightly misleading.  Green card holders are not automatically allowed back into the United States when they fall into one or more of several categories:

  • having abandoned status
  • having left the United States for more than 6 months
  • having done something illegal outside the country
  • having committed a drug offense or crime involving moral turpitude


If the person falls into one of these categories, then he or she will be treated as an applicant for admission and will be screened for the very same things that he or she was screened for when applying for the green card.

Even Green Card Holders Can Be Detained or Arrested By Airport Immigration

If the Customs officer determines that the person falls into one of the above categories and that he or she is inadmissible from the United States, the Customs officer may decide to place the person in removal, or deportation, proceedings.  The Customs officer will issue the person a Notice to Appear (NTA), a charging document which states the reasons for putting the person in deportation proceedings.  Then the Customs officer will decide whether to send the person to ICE for further detention, or whether to release the person on his or her own recognizance (i.e., without posting a bond).

Green Card Holders Detained At The Airport Can Fight Their Deportation

Although the Customs and ICE officials may get the first word on whether your relative should be deported, they don’t get the last word.  You and your relative should not assume that he or she is going to be deported without question.  There are many ways to beat the charges made by Immigration.  And there are many types of relief from deportation.

Finding a trustworthy deportation attorney is the first step to knowing the strength of your relative’s defense.  A good attorney will explore common options for green card holders in deportation proceedings — like the cancellation of removal for certain permanent residents, and waivers under Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  A good attorney will help you get a green card through marriage and also evaluate less common options, like terminating proceedings based on suppression of evidence, false allegations, or inaccurate charges, or asylum and withholding of removal.

The Vinesh Patel Law Firm Is Committed To Helping Green Card Holders Maintain Their Resident Status

Our Firm understands how precious it is to have permanent resident status in the United States.  We will do everything in our power to protect that status, whether it requires a firefight in immigration court, or skillful negotiating with immigration officials.  If your relative has been detained at DFW International Airport, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, or the San Antonio International Airport, call us today at 855-278-2943.

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