Immigrant Parents Promised to be Reunited with their Children Faster if they Sign Departure Orders

(ESPAÑOL) Immigrant parents are being offered the option to sign voluntary departure orders to speed up their cases, being told they’ll be reunited with their kids before they are deported if they do.

The option is not unique to parents and is not the only option parents are given, but the offer is raising eyebrows among those who represent undocumented immigrants, who question as to whether it’s understood properly by the parents being offered it.

An administration official confirmed the arrangement to CNN, saying that as is customary, immigrants in detention are being offered the chance to sign the orders to be removed from the country more quickly than if they waited for a judge. In that context, they are told their children will be reunited with them — if they choose for them to be — before they are deported.

The policy raises questions about how immigrants are being helped to approach their own legal situations and reunification. Efrén Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a call with reporters Sunday that the matter seemed to conflate “two separate points,” deportation and reunification.

“We have no reason to believe that (voluntary deportation) is the fastest way for parents to be reunited with their children,” Olivares said. “Putting them in that position is not a voluntary (deportation); it’s being obtained under duress.”

Henry Lucero, an enforcement and removal operations official of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said at a roundtable in Weslaco, Texas, on Friday that “a majority” of parents in immigration detention were opting to be deported without their children so the children can go through the immigration system. An ICE spokeswoman responded saying Lucero was speaking about his own current experiences and couldn’t provide numbers of how many parents had volunteered to be deported.

A fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security released Saturday evening said, “It should be noted that in the past many parents have elected to be removed without their children.”

Under the law, immigrants are allowed to have legal representation, although the government does not provide any as they navigate the US immigration system and seek to reunify with their children after the government separated them.

The families will either be reunited before deportation, or, if the parent is released from detention, after the parent applies to serve as the child’s sponsor under HHS rules.