Approximately 10 individuals claim they were coerced by U.S. government officials in southern California into signing orders that expelled them from the country back to Mexico, which may be a violation of their due process rights. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the individuals, indicating that they were denied their right to present a deportation defense to an immigration judge. In Aug. 2014, the U.S. government and the ACLU came to an agreement, which was recently approved by a federal judge.

The settlement restricts government officials from pressuring immigrants who are undocumented into signing expulsion orders. In addition to approving the settlement regarding this limited number of individuals, the judge recently agreed to expand the class of people affected by the settlement to anyone expelled under these conditions from June 2009 to Aug. 2014. Therefore, the settlement could potentially affect many more people other than the 10 represented in the lawsuit.

The ruling, however, only applies to those in southern California. This is because the ACLU’s lawsuit centered on this area. In addition to coercion, the ACLU says these undocumented immigrants supposedly returned to Mexico voluntarily, but claim they were not told that they would not be able to legally return to the United States for 10 years. One plaintiff claimed that officials threatened that her child, a U.S. citizen with Asperger’s Syndrome, would be taken away from her if she did not agree to leave the country.

Despite the fact that an individual may be undocumented, he or she still has certain rights, including the right not to be placed under duress or coerced by U.S. officials. Each person should be able to present his or her deportation defense if it is warranted. If an individual believes that he or she falls under the parameters set by this recent settlement, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of counsel to ensure that his or her rights are protected.

Source: Reuters, “Judge approves settlement allowing return of some Mexicans expelled from California“, Marty Graham, March 1, 2015