Lawsuit challenges so-called voluntary departure agreements

On behalf of Robichaud, Schroepfer & Correia, P.A. posted in Citizenship on Friday, June 7, 2013.

From the threat of deportation to potential exploitation by employers, undocumented people face an array of challenges. In Minnesota and across the nation, these challenges are a daily reality and a common source of anxiety. And unless some form of comprehensive immigration provides a path to citizenship, the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. will not be fully integrated into American life.

This week, there are renewed concerns about one of the challenges undocumented immigrants may face: pressure by federal authorities on Mexican nationals to consent to “voluntary departure” agreements to leave the U.S.

Such agreements can deny immigrants the ability to have a proper immigration hearing. That is why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought suit in federal court in California, seeking to stop the routine use of voluntary departure agreements.

Most immediately, the goal of the ACLU suit is to reverse the deportations of seven immigrations who were forced to return to Mexico after yielding to the pressure to accept voluntary departure agreements.

The ACLU has hopes of expanding its legal challenge, however. If the ACLU is successful, the suit could become a class action.

None of the seven Mexican nationals in the California case had a criminal record. The ACLU alleges that they were misled by federal immigration officials about how the voluntary departure process worked. As a result, the immigrants did not receive hearings before an immigration judge before they were forced to leave the U.S.

Denial of a hearing is deeply at odds with the basic legal rights of due process and an opportunity to be heard. It is those basic American values that the ACLU is emphasizing in its lawsuit.

Source: Bloomberg, “Mexican Nationals Sue Over ‘Voluntary Departure,'” Edwvard Pettersson, June 4, 2013