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DHS Settles Voluntary Departure Lawsuit

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alleging that ICE agents used coercive and deception to force immigrants to select the option of voluntary departure, which can serve as a bar to re-entry for up to ten years if DHS consent is not received.

Terms of DHS Settlement put limits on coercive tactics

However, on Wednesday, the case was settled, and a small number of immigrants affected are allowed to return to the United States to be processed as a proper applicant for admission to the United States. These individuals may be subject to deportation proceedings upon their return.

This settlement will place the following limitations on ICE officials in the future:

–  Bars of the use of coercive tactics,

–  Requires written advisement of a right to a hearing with an immigration judge, and

–  Requires undocumented individuals be granted access to a working telephone, an informational telephone hotline, and access to free legal service providers AT LEAST 2 hours prior to requiring they decide on voluntary removal.

Potential impacts for others

Those individuals who had previously been deported who have relatives that are U.S. citizens and who have lived in California for a long time may also qualify to return to the U.S. under the terms of this settlement agreement.

According to the senior staff attorney at the ACLU office in San Diego, the number of individuals who may be allowed to return under this settlement could reach into the hundreds of thousands.

Though these reforms solely impact California, there is support to potentially expand these reforms to other jurisdictions.


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