Well over a year ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of several immigrant rights organizations and individual plaintiffs. The purpose behind this lawsuit was to seek changes to the voluntary return process that is widely used in California to send immigrants back to their native country. Many believe this voluntary return process denies immigrants their right of receiving a fair immigration hearing.
This class action lawsuit claimed that numerous families have been separated due to the alleged deceptive practices of immigration enforcement agencies. Individual plaintiffs in this case claim they were pressured into signing a voluntary return form, without being informed about the consequences that accompany this document. Those involved in this legal claim requested the ability to re-enter the United States to receive a proper and fair immigration hearing. Immigration rights organizations have taken things a step further and requested that the voluntary return system be reformed.
Litigation in this case has taken over a year to complete, but a settlement agreement has finally been reached. Under the conditions of the settlement, the voluntary return system in Southern California is set to undergo several important changes. Some of these changes include providing detailed information regarding the consequences of signing a voluntary return form, putting an end to pressuring immigrants to sign these forms and not longer allowing immigration agencies to pre-check the voluntary return agreement box on these forms. Along with these and other changes to the voluntary return system, if court approved, some immigrants who were removed from the country on unlawful voluntary returns will be allowed to re-enter the country for proper immigration hearings.
There is no doubt that immigration reform still has a long way to go, but this settlement can certainly be considered a victory for California immigrants. Those who are working through the immigration process or who have been detained by an immigration enforcement agency do not have to face those situations alone. Immigrants are granted certain rights and protections under state laws that can assist them in their desire to remain in the country.
Source: aclu.org, “Victory! Immigration Authorities Must Stop Coercing Immigrants Into Signing Away Their Rights“, Gabriela Rivera and Mitra Ebadolahi, Aug. 27, 2014