U.S. immigration authorities must revamp their practices to ensure Mexicans accused of living in the country illegally are properly informed of their right to a hearing before an immigration judge, according to a lawsuit settlement made public Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.
The federal lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles on behalf of nine Mexican nationals and three organizations in June 2013. It alleges U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Southern California routinely have told Mexican immigrants they could face months in jail while their cases are decided and falsely informed them that they can easily arrange legal status once they're back in Mexico.
Immigrations authorities would offer voluntary departures, which prohibit immigrants from re-entering the U.S. for up to 10 years, according to the lawsuit. The voluntary departures can be offered to immigrants without criminal records, sparing them the possibility of stiffer penalties under formal deportation orders.
ICE and CBP said in a statement that officials use voluntary departures as an option for those who asked to be returned home in lieu of formal removal proceedings, "but in no case is coercion or deception tolerated."