Government agents may now be held accountable for coercing immigrants in California to sign voluntary departure forms after settling a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a group of immigrant plaintiffs. The lawsuit accused the government of using intense pressure to compel illegal immigrants to sign the voluntary departure forms, which allowed the government to bypass the trial process to which these immigrants are entitled.
According to one estimate, approximately 70 percent of the 400,000 people being deported from the U.S. have not been seeing a judge prior to their departure. The Border Patrol has been targeting immigrants who have already been living in the U.S. for years and who have already adjusted to an American lifestyle. In 2009, Border Patrol agents deported three students who were on their way to high school. In another case, an illegal immigrant who had been residing in the U.S. since 2001 was deported after she and her 13-year-old American-born son were stopped on the street. Another man said that he had been living in the U.S. for 11 years when he was asked to sign a voluntary departure form and return to Mexico.
The recent settlement with the ACLU will require government agents to stop pressuring immigrants to sign voluntary departure forms, and the government will also be required to provide detainees with access to a phone and give them up to two hours to reach a family member or an attorney.
This settlement may allow many immigrants with ties to the U.S. to remain while their cases are being heard instead of being coerced into signing a form that they may not fully understand. Immigration attorneys may be helpful to those that find themselves in these circumstances.
Source: U-T San Diego, "ACLU: Suit puts end to deceived detainees," Kristina Davis, Aug. 27, 2014
Source: KUSI, "ACLU: Immigration settlement", August 27, 2014