The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial County has filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and its chief, Janet Napolitano. The ACLU is accusing border patrol agents and ICE officers of using improper tactics to coerce undocumented immigrants into signing summary expulsion documents.
Executing these papers is known as “voluntary departure” and essentially deprives a person of their right to fair hearing before an immigration court (and thus the chance to remain in the United States lawfully).
The ACLU alleges that Mexican nationals have been targeted by immigration agents doing innocuous and routine activities, such as waiting for a bus. After being confronted, they are “advised” of their rights and (more likely) the potential consequences of being found guilty of staying in the United States illegally. (Which is a ten-year ban on returning to the country).
However, the people targeted ostensibly have family members legally in the United States (as well as regular employment) and have the ability to petition for relief based on those relationships. The ACLU accuses agents of misstating facts and procedures that lead to people being deported in a number of hours without the ability to challenge the accusations and stay with their families while doing so.
The ACLU also alleges that these practices are rampant, and are often made with threats of continued retaliation against family members and physical abuse. It believes that a law enforcement agency should not be allowed to operate in this manner.
We will provide updates on this case as they become available.
Source: ACLU SanDiego.org, Class action lawsuit challenges immigration enforcement agencies practices of tearing families apart, June 4, 2013