New York Times
By Jennifer Medina and Julia Preston
ANGELES — Nine Mexican immigrants who agreed to be deported from the
United States during the last five years will be allowed to return to
fight their expulsions under
an agreement announced Wednesday that could also include other Mexicans
who consented to leave.
a lawsuit against the federal government brought last year, the
American Civil Liberties Union argued that enforcement agents had
coerced the nine into accepting a
type of removal known as voluntary return by failing to advise them of
their rights or warn them of the consequences. After deportation, most
immigrants living here without papers cannot legally come back for at
least three years and often as long as a decade.
immigrants contended they had strong cases for staying and would have
made them in court if they had known they had that option. They said
agents gave them “gross
misinformation” about their choices and pressured them to sign removal
papers, resulting in departures that were anything but voluntary.
the agreement, federal officials did not admit any wrongdoing but
agreed to alter the practices of border and enforcement agents to have
them inform immigrants more
thoroughly about their rights and about the obstacles to returning if
authorities “use voluntary return as an option for individuals who may
request to be returned home in lieu of removal proceedings, but in no
case is coercion or deception
tolerated,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman in California for
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a statement on Wednesday.
the case involved only nine immigrants deported from San Diego and Los
Angeles, it could apply to many more if a judge approves a section of
the agreement that
would extend it to all Mexicans who left from Southern California by
voluntary departure after June 2009 and who would have had viable claims
in immigration courts.
two sides gave different estimates of how many people would be
affected. The A.C.L.U. said “potentially hundreds or thousands” of
deportees might qualify. An immigration
official said that about 30,000 foreigners left in voluntary departures
during the time period, but that only “a very small fraction” would
qualify to return.
federal judge who will decide, John A. Kronstadt of the Central
District of California, is not expected to rule until next year. As part
of the already agreed changes,
immigration and border agencies will set up a telephone hotline with
information for people considering voluntary departure and will provide
lists of lawyers and times to consult them as well as better access for
lawyers to meet with those who are detained.
is a substantial reform of how Border Patrol and ICE do business,” said
Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the civil liberties union in
San Diego, using the
acronym for the enforcement agency. The agreement allows the A.C.L.U.
to monitor the agencies’ compliance for three years.
for the group said the settlement was a rare instance when significant
numbers of people who have been deported can come back. They will not be
given any new legal
status, but will be able to take up their cases where they stood before
deportation. A law firm, Cooley LLP in San Diego, also worked on the
Riordan said the immigrants in the suit were living without legal
status in Southern California and were detained when they were going
about daily routines such as
driving to work or waiting at a bus stop.
plaintiff, Gerardo Hernández Contreras, went out in San Diego to pick
up ice cream for his young children, who are both American citizens,
when he was stopped by local
police officers. According to court documents, he was turned over to
the Border Patrol and signed a voluntary departure after agents told him
his wife, also an American citizen, would be able to obtain a visa for
him to return. He has been living in Tijuana
plaintiff, Isidora López Venegas, was stopped on the street in San
Diego three years ago and signed a voluntary departure to avoid being
detained and separated
from a young son who is autistic. Ms. Venegas said her son was not
receiving adequate care where she now lives in Mexico.
The nine Mexicans in the suit will be allowed to come back within 30 days.
Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant
Rights of Los Angeles, which was a plaintiff, said the agreement would
work immediately to
discourage agents from pressuring people to depart. “The cowardly
practice of coercing immigrants to sign a so-called voluntary departure
notice has come to an end,” she said.