By H. Nelson Goodson
June 6, 2013
San Diego, CA - On Tuesday, the ACLU in Southern California and Cooley LLC filed a federal suit Lopez-Venegas v. Napolitan in Los Angeles against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Border Patrol claiming they have used coerced expulsions (administrative voluntary departure) to deport hundreds or thousands of undocumented immigrants during detention. The ICE officers in Southern California have "compel immigrants to involuntarily sign summary expulsion orders" by threatening them that they would be held for months or that their families in the U.S. would also be targeted for deportation. Most of those in question (deported) have lived in the U.S. for a decade or so. The ACLU reported that, immigration enforcement authorities in Southern California routinely use misinformation, deception and coercion to pressure undocumented immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. for years to surrender their right to seek legal status. ALSO, ICE officers systemically employ pressure and threats to effectively force individuals to sign for voluntary departure. ICE officers often tell immigrants in detention that they have no rights and "have to" sign for voluntary departure, so they can get back to their families in Mexico or countries of origin.
ICE agents also tell the immigrants that they could later return to the U.S. from Mexico by applying for legal status, once they get deported. But in fact, the deported immigrants have to wait at least ten years before applying for legal status in the U.S., while other restrictions apply.
The ACLU lawsuit claims, that ICE officials prevent immigrants from contacting family members or counsel while they are faced with the choice of voluntary departure. Once they sign the voluntary departures, they are left with little or no recourse to stay or appeal their deportation proceedings. They are deported immediately.
The ACLU wants for ICE officials to inform immigrants of their options (rights), to allow family members, close friends or counsel to advice immigrants of their right to decide which options to consider while facing deportation. The ACLU lawsuit is also seeking the return of thousands of undocumented immigrants that were coerced to sign voluntary departures and deported.