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Immigration Reform News & Laws 2014: Federal Authorities to Be Required to Offer Accurate Information to Undocumented Immigrants

First Posted: Aug 28, 2014 01:36 PM EDT
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Unaccompanied Migrants from Central America

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A California lawsuit settlement made public Wednesday requires U.S. immigration authorities to accurately inform undocumented Mexican immigrants of their right to a hearing before an immigration judge, according to the Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on behalf of several Mexican immigrants and three organizations in June 2013.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU alleged the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in Los Angeles and Southern California told the immigrants they could face months of jail time if they went to court instead of going back to Mexico and easily arranging a legal status.

By encouraging the immigrants to leave, they actually hampered any legal immigration efforts since voluntary departures prohibit the individual from re-entering the country for up to 10 years.

The voluntary departure option is presented to those without a criminal history, and authorities said they offer it in lieu of a formal hearing, but that "in no case is coercion or deception tolerated," AP reported.

After the settlement, the departments agreed to accurately inform immigrants of what voluntary departure entails.

The ACLU told AP that there were many cases of individuals that could have been given a chance to legally stay in the U.S.

Pending court approval, those who were sent away with the option of voluntary departure, without being informed of what it meant, may be given an immigration hearing in order to give them the opportunity to reunite with their families in the U.S., AP reported.

In addition, the settlement prohibits officials from pre-checking the voluntary departure box on forms given to immigrants, and allow a two-hour delay and phone access before the individuals make a decision.

"If the agencies implement the agreement fully, never again should families be driven apart based on immigration enforcement practices that rely upon misinformation, deception, and coercion," Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, told AP.

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