#Not1More Deportation

3. Step-by-Step Guide

The following is a general step-by-step guide to the process of conducting a public campaign against a person’s deportation. The guide includes information for people in deportation proceedings, their family members, community advocates, and grassroots organizers, including how to work on these cases with limited support from an attorney.

Please remember that each case is unique, and that while we try to account for a variety of situations, you may have to improvise. In fact, much of what we have learned about fighting publicly against deportations has been the result of people in deportation and community advocates being creative and thinking outside the box.

[ Click on Boxes to Expand ]


Recommended roles and responsibilities for community advocates: The role of a community advocate or organization should be to support the public campaign in a strategy led by the individual or family of individual facing deportation. Some responsibilities might include:

  • Reaching out to the ICE public advocate or other law-enforcement agencies;
  • Helping the individual write a history describing their case and their “ask”;
  • Advocating for a stop to the individual’s deportation through public events, including press conferences, public meetings, or direct actions;
  • Reaching out to legislators and community leaders to gather support for the individual, and, when necessary, putting pressure on these leaders to secure their support;
  • Helping the individual or family member contact an immigration attorney to do an initial consult;
  • Helping gather signatures and phone calls by reaching out to constituency and other allies.

It is important that the person in deportation proceedings and their family know both the possibilities and the limitations of community advocacy, including:

  • What prosecutorial discretion is, and how individuals and community organizations can successfully pressure ICE to exercise discretion to stop a deportation;
  • That prosecutorial discretion can stop a deportation, but that it will not grant a person legal status, and that while community support helps, it does not guarantee relief;
  • That a community advocate is NOT an attorney and cannot give them legal advice about their case;
  • That a community advocate will be asking sensitive questions and asking them to gather personal documents in support of the case, including family pictures;
  • That the family member or person in removal proceedings also has responsibilities, including the ones listed below, that they will need to commit to.

If you are the individual facing deportation or a family member: Make sure that everyone involved in the campaign knows that it will take their active participation. If you are in communication with a community advocacy organization, review their roles and commitments, some of which are listed above. Know that you and your family will also have a role and responsibilities, including:

  • Being part of the effort to speak about the case;
  • Helping gather signatures, make calls, and get support from legislators;
  • Helping humanize the individual, including providing family pictures;
  • Working with community organizations to advocate on behalf of other people who have been deported, are in proceedings, or are detained. If you are not already in touch with a community organization, you should contact NDLON to link you with a local organization doing this work.
  • Giving permission to share information about the case with the public, media, and other organizations.


Consult with an Attorney: Whether there is an attorney representing the person in proceedings or not, they should talk to an attorney about whether they have any options besides prosecutorial discretion to fight their deportation, and about how a campaign for prosecutorial discretion might affect those other options.

If the person does not have an attorney, they should get legal advice about their eligibility for other forms of deportation relief before going ahead with a prosecutorial discretion campaign.

That’s because if they are eligible for other relief, it might be better for them to pursue that relief than to try to have their case closed through prosecutorial discretion

Community advocates can also try to help the person set up an intake interview with a local immigration attorney. (Many attorneys will do an initial case evaluation or consultation free of charge). If you cannot find a local attorney, contact NDLON to see if we can help refer you to someone.


Get a Privacy Waiver: A DHS “Privacy Waiver Authorizing Disclosure to a Third Party” gives DHS and ICE permission to share information about a person in deportation proceedings with a third party, including a community advocate. This includes information such as whether or not prosecutorial discretion has been granted, and whether an individual has been deported. If the person facing deportation is in detention, strategize on who can get the form to them, because they must sign it personally. Some organizations have been successful in mailing the form to the detention center.

A note about working with attorneys: If your organization is already working with an attorney who has agreed to represent the person in removal proceedings, or if you are in removal proceedings and already have an attorney, the attorney should have requested a signed G-28 form. The G-28 form establishes the attorney as the person’s legal representative before DHS, and gives the attorney access to information from DHS. A community organization or advocate should still consider getting the DHS privacy waver signed so that they can get information directly from DHS, without the attorney acting as a go-between. This might vary according to the relationship of each organization and individual to the attorney representing the case.

Research: It is good to have multiple sources of information about your case, or the case of the person who you are advocating for. Sometimes people are not aware of the charges facing their loved one or the location where their loved one is detained. It can be a huge help to provide them with this information. For people in ICE custody, try the ICE detainee locator at http://www.ice.gov/locator. For people in local criminal custody, use a search engine to see if the jail provides online information about inmates. Many do.

An Intake form: We have put together a series of questions that could be used as an intake form to find out more about the person’s immigration history and other factors that might affect their immigration status and public case. For organizations that have partnerships with attorneys, this has been a tool shared with the attorneys to support the intake process. The information in the form may also inform steps to take for the public campaign, including writing the petition and the prosecutorial discretion letter.

Find a sample intake form here.

Evaluate case: Is this a case that your organization wants to take on? What are the chances for prosecutorial discretion? Does the case let you raise important issues that have an implication beyond the case itself?

Evaluate urgency: Does action need to be taken today (for an imminent deportation)? Is the person in detention? Is the final court date/ date of removal soon? If immediate action must be taken, what resources do you have at your disposal?


Determine who has the decision-making power to stop this deportation, define primary targets, and figure out what you are asking for. Some possible asks and targets are:

  • Lift ICE hold: If the person is in local criminal custody with an ICE hold, there are two potential targets with authority to lift the ICE hold and prevent the person from ever being transferred to ICE. First, the local ICE ERO Office can lift the hold. Second, the local law enforcement agency that is detaining the person can choose not to comply with the hold.
  • Release from immigration detention: If the person is in detention and has not yet been ordered deported, the local ICE ERO Office has the power to release him/her on bond or on own recognizance.
  • Stay of Removal: If person has been ordered deported, the Local ICE ERO Office can grant a Stay of Removal, which will stop ICE from enforcing the removal order. [NOTE: In order to request a stay or removal, you must file form I-246 and include the filing fee. Only the person facing deportation or an attorney can file this form.]
  • Deferred Action: The local ICE ERO Office can grant this at any time during the process. A key benefit of deferred action is that it makes you eligible for work authorization. Additionally there is no filing fee, and no legal form needed. ICE rarely grants deferred action, but it can be requested at any time. In some cases, people have asked for deferred action, and have been granted a stay of removal without having to file the application.


This is a template letter to be sent from a community organization to ICE. The purpose of the letter is to provide ICE with information showing that an individual is a good candidate for prosecutorial discretion. Your organization should submit this letter only with the individual’s consent, and only after informing him or her that you are not an attorney, that you cannot provide legal advice or representation and that, if ICE offers to close his or her removal case in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, he or she should consult with an immigration attorney before deciding whether to accept the offer.

Do NOT submit this letter for anyone who is not currently in deportation proceedings. If you are submitting this letter for someone who is represented by an immigration attorney, consult with the attorney before submitting the letter. You should also consult with an immigration attorney before disclosing any facts or details that could be used against the individual. This includes any details about arrests, criminal convictions, and past immigration violations. The information from the letter can come from the intake done earlier. This template is not meant to be legal advice. Every case is different.

Step 5 Letter pt1 Step 5 letter pt 2step 5 letter p3

[Download Document]

The prosecutorial discretion letter can also be used when elected officials ask for more information about the case, as it gives them a full history of the person who they are supporting. You may edit the letter to protect the person’s privacy by including fewer details than you sent to ICE, as long as the letter remains honest to the totality of the case. Note that some elected officials require a family member to sign a privacy waver, usually found on their website, before their office will look into the person’s case or make a call on their behalf to ICE.

Important Factors to Include in the Letter: You can find a list of the factors that can be listed in Part II of the Letter in the Prosecutorial Discretion section at the beginning of this Toolkit. Include each and as many positive reason that applies to your case.

Possible Documents to Include with the Letter: It is important to attach documents to the letter to substantiate people’s claims and experiences. For example, if you or the individual in deportation proceedings explains in the prosecutorial discretion letter that you/he/she have a U.S. citizen husband or wife, the supporting documents should include a marriage certificate and proof of citizenship, such as naturalization documents, passports, or birth certificates.

Below is a list of possible documents that people could use to support a prosecutorial discretion request. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Also note that you can submit affidavits from people to substantiate some of the claims, for example, you can submit an affidavit to substantiate facts about violence experienced, child custody, or economic hardship:

Show length of stay in the US

  • Rent receipts;
  • School records;
  • Certificates of achievement/rehabilitation/education ;
  • Medical or dental records;
  • Social security records;
  • Payroll records and income tax records;
  • Notarized letters from a: landlord, employer, co-worker, neighbor, friend or religious leader;
  • Utility bills;
  • Children’s birth certificates;
  • Children’s school records;
  • Children’s immunization records;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • I.D.’s issued during that time;
  • Bank statements and records;
  • Proof of child support payments;
  • Tax records;
  • Deeds to property;
  • Newspaper articles featuring your story.

Show “good moral character”

  • You can show good moral character by getting reference letters from people who know the person. The more letters, the better. The letters should be dated, notarized and signed. Letters can be from family members, work or volunteer supervisors, co-workers, teachers, neighbors, religious leaders, or any people who benefit from the persons’ activities in your community. The letters should include the following information:
    • The letter writer’s relationship to the person in removal proceedings;
    • The name of the person in removal proceedings;
    • How long the letter writer has known the person in removal proceedings;
    • Why the letter writer has a good opinion of them/you (they should try to give examples of your good behavior) and how their/your deportation would affect them;
  • You can also show good moral character by including:
    • Photographs of the person and their family
    • Records showing a history of paying taxes
    • Any awards the person has received at work or in their community

Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and establish hardship

  • Proof of child support payments;
  • Letters from family members;
  • Bills for family’s expenses (water, electricity, medical care, etc.);
  • Proof of insurance for family members;
  • Evidence of family member’s medical history, medical treatment, or medical condition (this can include doctor’s letters, copies of medical records, prescriptions, letter from psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist, treatment records);
  • Letters from family members describing the hardship they have experienced since you have been in detention;
  • Records of children’s activities that would suffer if you are placed in deportation;

Documents to show “compelling ties” and “compelling contributions” to the U.S.

  • Letters of support from:
    • Family
    • Community Organization
    • Neighborhood Association
    • Child’s School
    • Volunteer Organization
    • Congressional Office
    • Union
    • Neighbor

Documents to show involvement in an activity “related to civil or other rights (for example, union organizing, complaining to authorities about employment discrimination or housing conditions)”

  • Legal papers
  • Newspaper articles
  • Letters from community organizations or peers
  • Photos at activities
  • Sign-in sheets from community meetings
  • Transcripts or video of testimony given during hearings


Now you are ready to send these to ICE. In an e-mail or mailing package, send:

  1. The prosecutorial discretion request letter,
  2. Supporting documents*, and
  3. DHS Third Party Privacy waver, to the target you identified in Step 4, above, and to the local ICE public advocate. (The role of the public advocate is to respond to concerns about immigration detention and deportation from the public.

* The supporting documents are an important part of the request. However, if immediate action needs to be taken—for example, because the person is facing imminent deportation or transfer to ICE—you may want to put together a “bare bones” prosecutorial discretion request, including just the details and supporting documents you have at the moment. You can send a more detailed request later (and you should, since ICE can deny the request based on there not being enough evidence).

Even in the “bare bones” request, though, it’s important to include the DHS Third Party Privacy Waver, because ICE does not have to respond to your request if they do not have permission to share information. If you don’t have the DHS waver and are unable to get it signed (for example, if the person is in detention or otherwise unreachable), immigration officials may be willing to give information to immediate relatives without a signed form.


Not all cases need to go public. With some clear-cut “low priority” cases, especially those without criminal backgrounds, a relationship with the above contacts/targets, plus a prosecutorial discretion request letter with supporting documents could be sufficient to stop a deportation. But most cases we will work on will need to go public.

Write the petition. Make sure it is brief, honest, and to the point. Humanize the person. Make people see their story. Identify a compelling fact that will help others relate to them. Work with NDLON to set up the online petition.

The text for the petition should have 4 parts:

  1. The main text that explains the story;
  2. The message that will be sent to the target;
  3. A ‘Thank you’ e-mail sent to the person signing the petition, containing follow-up actions and information;
  4. A ‘Tell A Friend’ page for people to share the petition with their contacts.

You can find petitions and use them as samples here. Also, below are examples and pointers for how to write each part of the petition:

Part 1: The main text

[Catchy title for the petition] With Baby’s Life in Danger, Father Fights to Stay


[Introductory paragraph explaining the urgency and summarizing the case]

Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000) is currently being detained at the South Louisiana Correctional Center. He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. His wife, Maria has been struggling to make her medical appointments and her husband’s deportation has caused stress on her pregnancy. Paco has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family.

[Ask for support in bold, with a direct action to be taken]
Please take a moment to sign this petition, and make a call in support of letting Paco stay with his family. 

[More of the story, and why signing the petition is important]

Paco was detained when he and his wife were driving back from Church and were stopped by immigration agents at a checkpoint. Paco, who was driving, was asked for his identification. Because of a prior deportation, he was taken into custody.  Now his wife is organizing with her community and asking for support for her husband. Paco already missed the birth of his first son, because he had been deported. With his family as the reason he came back, he wants to be here for the birth of his second child. Please sign below to stop Paco’s deportation. 

Part 2: Message to the Target

[Subject heading for e-mail, include A number]

Subject: Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000) has a baby whose life is in danger, please stop his deportation

[Text]  Hello —

I am writing in support of Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000), who is currently detained at the South Louisiana Correctional Center. He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. His wife has been struggling to make her medical appointments, and her husband’s deportation has caused stress on her pregnancy. Mr Gomez has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family.

I understand that Mr. Gomez has been deported in the past. However, he poses no danger to the community, and is a contributing member of his church, and a caring father and son.  I urge you to consider using prosecutorial discretion in his case to stop his deportation.

Thank you,

Part 3: Thank You E-mail and calls

[Subject] Thank you for supporting Paco!

[E-mail text] Dear [[Name]]

Thank you for your signature. These checkpoints and detentions happen routinely in the neighborhoods of [State] Your support for Paco and his family helps us fight the effects of these detentions in our communities. If you haven’t made a call, please consider taking another minute to support:

[Call the national target, and the local target. Calls are important]

  1. Call ICE Director John Morton, 202-732-3000
  2. Call the Local Field Office Director [NAME], 318-335-7500 or (504) 789-7800

[Include a sample call-in script. Give out the A number again, ICE often keeps track of the calls made for a person by their A number]

Sample script: “I am calling to ask that Immigration and Customs Enforcement stop the deportation of and close the case against Paco Gomez (A number 000-000-000). He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. Paco has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family”

Sincerely,  [YOUR NAME, YOUR ORG]

Note: It is super important to make those calls. ICE pays more attention to calls than e-mails.

Determine petition targets

  • Lift ICE hold: If the person is in local criminal custody with an ICE hold, there are two potential targets with authority to lift the ICE hold and prevent the person from ever being transferred to ICE. First, the local ICE ERO Office can lift the hold. Second, the local law enforcement agency that is detaining the person can choose not to comply with the hold.
  • Release from immigration detention, deferred action, stay of removal, or closing the case:  You can target the Director of the local ICE ERO Office. Find a list here: http://www.ice.gov/contact/ero/
  • Public Advocate: You can contact the public advocate when the person is in deportation proceedings, has gotten a final order of removal, or is in immigration detention. If the public advocate has not been responsible, you might consider including them as a target. However, this might be a good relationship to keep, as in our experience they are often the people who respond immediately to requests and e-mails.
  • National targets: Remember that the national ICE office can put pressure on local ICE offices to take action. Bring in national targets, which could include John Morton, the Director of ICE (email: john.morton@dhs.gov) and Andrew Lorenzen Strait, the ICE Public Advocate (email: Andrew.R.Lorenzen.Strait@ice.dhs.gov).


Use the petition as a tool: The petition is a tool that gives people direction on how to help with the case. Make sure to spread it through your networks, ask people in key positions (executive directors, legislators) to make a call, ask ally organizations to send it out through their networks, use your social media, have people sign the petition AND make calls at meetings, encourage the family or individual to participate in making calls, etc.

Gather letters of support from elected officials. Look for Senators, representatives, city officials, or other federal, city or state elected officials who might be supportive of the case:

  • First, ask them to support the PD request by writing a letter to ICE or inquiring with DHS/ICE about the case. Give them a case description so they are aware of the facts of the case. Usually, they will ask the individual or a family member to sign a consent form before they will agree to talk to ICE about the case. If the official agrees to write a letter, you should include it as an attachment to the prosecutorial discretion letter. If you get the official’s letter after you already sent the initial prosecutorial discretion request, you can still send it to ICE as a supplement to the initial request.
  • If the elected official is not willing to support, and it is a hard case that needs strong political support (for example, someone with a DUI or one or more prior deportations), the elected official could become one of the targets of the petition through e-mails or calls.

Organize with community organizations, churches, and other types of organizations that may relate to the cause (medical associations, teachers unions, mental health agencies—be creative!) to:

  • Write letters of support
  • Gather signatures and make calls (organize a call-in day)
  • Plan strategic events (community meetings, press conferences, rallies etc) to push targets, both primary and secondary.

Get media to call ICE: Urge any media covering your story to call the ICE office (or your targets) and inquire about your case. We have been told by detainees that when media are asking questions, ICE will take a second look at the deportation cases.

Escalate. Consider a plan for escalation, such as a direct action or civil disobedience to move your primary or secondary targets, especially as the deportation date draws near. This can increase the public attention on the case, which can help.

Follow-up, Evaluation and Documentation

  • Let people know about the results of the case, whether negative or positive. Write a short press release, or release a picture showing the results.
  • Do an evaluation with those who participated in the case and family members. Document (1) lessons learned, (2) advice for the future, and (3) things that worked. Share with NDLON staff and affiliates to contribute to this document.

Work to continue to involve the family members and friends to support others in deportation proceedings.

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