Mexican Nationals Sue U.S. Over ‘Voluntary Departure’

Mexican nationals living in Southern California are routinely pressured into “voluntary departure” agreements denying them their right to an immigration hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit.

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties sued U.S. immigration authorities in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday on behalf of seven Mexican nationals, seeking to represent others in a class action, or group lawsuit. The ACLU seeks a court order declaring the deportations of the seven individuals and others were unlawful and allowing them to return to the U.S.

“The policy and practice of misrepresenting an individual’s legal rights to summarily deport them from this country is inconsistent with the fundamental notions of fairness and due process under our Constitution,” Anthony Stiegler, a lawyer with Cooley LLP who also represents the plaintiffs, said in an e-mailed statement.

The seven who sued, none of whom had a criminal background, were given false information by immigration officers and pressured into signing their own expulsion documents, according to the complaint. The individuals thereby forfeited their right to a hearing before an immigration judge who might have allowed them to remain in the U.S.

Representatives of the Homeland Security Department’s media office didn’t immediately respond yesterday to a call seeking comment on the allegations.

The case is Lopez Venegas v. Napolitano, 13-3972, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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