Immigration: Civil Vs. Criminal Approach
With Independence Day media attention focused on the “border children” challenging immigration capacity and policy, some are surprised to discover that immigration is a civil, not criminal, legal action. That means that “illegal” immigrants have not broken a law, but face deportation.
The concepts are examined pretty well at the biased-but-honest website “stopimmigrationnow.com“, which notes that “… the United States, we often refer to people who are in the United States without permission from the government as ‘illegal aliens.’ Calling people ‘illegals’ gives the false impression that they have committed a crime. However, being in the United States without documentation is not a crime. It is a violation of immigration laws, and there is no punishment for illegal presence.”
Again noting that it is certainly an activist site, you can get a good feel for how “criminal vs. civil” might impact cases, including the right to legal representation, at the website: Social Scientists on Immigration Policy: Is Immigration Law Civil or Criminal?