USA VISA: IMMIGRATION CORNER- ICE going after those with ‘voluntary departure’

– Michael J. Gurfinkel
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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced “Operation Broken Promise,” targeting for arrest and removal/deportation those aliens who were in removal proceedings and promised to voluntarily leave the US (instead of being ordered deported), but never left. So far, ICE has arrested hundreds of individuals who accepted voluntary departure but failed to depart.

“Voluntary departure” is requested by the alien and granted by an immigration judge, where the alien is typically granted about 60 to 120 days to arrange for their own departure from the US, versus facing a formal deportation order (and the various barriers to readmission that such an order carries). In other words, rather than being ordered to leave, the alien promises to leave (or depart) the US voluntarily. If they fail to do so, the voluntary departure converts into a final deportation order.

In the past, many were placed in deportation/removal, such as when they applied for political asylum, but their claim of persecution was denied and they were placed in removal proceedings. At the time of the hearing, they had no form of relief (or way to get a green card) and were facing certain deportation/removal. Rather than being “ordered” removed, they agreed to leave voluntarily, so a deportation order would not appear on the records.  But they never left, and now ICE is going after them.

While ICE states it is mostly targeting criminals with convictions, they also state that “ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All those in violation of immigration law may be subject to arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the US.” In other words, everyone who accepted voluntary departure but didn’t leave, even if they have no crimes, could be subject to being picked up by ICE.

If you accepted voluntary departure but never left, I would advise that you consult with an attorney who can evaluate your situation rather than trying to handle this on your own. In some cases, it could be possible to have your case reopened and/or even dismissed, provided you now have a form of relief or way to get a green card which, at the time of your original removal proceedings, you didn’t have. An attorney can evaluate your circumstance in light of applicable law and your chances of success.


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