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ACLU Class Action Suit Alleges Threats, Coercion By Border Patrol

Photo by Jill Replogle

Aide Vasquez, a U.S. Citizen, says her husband, a Mexican national, was deported after Border Patrol agents pressured him to waive his rights and threatened him with long-term detention.

ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi will head the Border Litigation project in San Diego.

Aide Vasquez
is a United States citizen, her husband Gerardo Hernandez-Contreras is a plaintiff in the Lopez-Venegas v. Napolitano case.


The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties has launched a new project to insure that people here illegally are not exploited. The Border Litigation Project will focus on how immigrants in custody are treated by law enforcement.

In that spirit, the ACLU today announced a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for allegedly intimidating people arrested by the Border Patrol into signing away their rights.

The complaint alleges that Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers regularly pressure immigrants being held in detention facilities to sign a "voluntary departure" form. By signing the form, the person waives his or her right to have a case heard before an immigration judge. They are deported sometimes within hours and are banned from returning to the United States for 10 years.

“It’s unconscionable that immigration agents perpetually fail to tell individuals with the most to lose that there are direct and certain consequences of taking voluntary departure,” said Sean Riordan, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

“One of the most serious of those consequences is a 10-year bar prohibiting return to the United States. No one should have to make such a critical decision without knowing all the repercussions,” he said.

The ACLU said all of the seven plaintiffs in the case were approached by Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers while " doing routine daily activities, such as waiting for a bus."

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency will send a statement in response to this lawsuit. This story will be updated with that statement when it is received.

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