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ACLU Class Action Suit Alleges Threats, Coercion By Border Patrol

Evening Edition

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.

Aired 6/4/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

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.

Transcript

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.

Comments

Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 4, 2013 at 3:52 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

“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.

===

So when they hired a coyote, ignored border signs, cut fencing, climbed over a wall, and ran from the Border Patrol, they assumed it had no repercussions?

The ACLU is just embarrassing itself, as usual.

Voluntary departure is far better than being forcefully removed by a judge.

Voluntary Departure:

10 year ban and you're back home before lunchtime. No increased penalty for multiple voluntary departures.

Court Ordered Removal:

Months spent in jail waiting for a court date.

1st removal: 10 year ban.
2nd removal: 20 year ban.
Convicted of a felony: Lifetime ban.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 4, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

I propose to execute people who trespass into this country. See how they like that. Why do illegal immigrants think they have rights?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 4, 2013 at 5:08 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

JM,

Illegal aliens are mostly desperately poor people. They are only here because of greedy corporations and dirty weekend jobbers who troll Home Depot parking lots for servants.

Employers of illegal aliens, even for gardening or housekeeping, should be fined and jailed. Illegal aliens should be immediately returned to their country of origin.

That is fair, appropriate, and just.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 4, 2013 at 8:47 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Jean: "Why do illegal immigrants think they have rights?"

Have you ever heard of basic human rights?

It's not enough to deport them, you want them shot? Why? That's disturbing.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 4, 2013 at 8:52 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

CA Defender, I'm surprised by your negative comments about the ACLU. As someone who has demonstrated value in civil liberties and limits on government power, I would think you would support the ACLU.

You don't have to agree with every case they take on, but overall they are a crucial check and balance to our government.

I think a lot of people who demonize the ACLU would be pretty dismayed and shocked if the protections and liberties they have defended were suddenly revoked.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | June 5, 2013 at 8:39 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

There is no water's edge for human rights. Amongst other things, the ACLU defends foreign migrants from abuse and citizens from government intrusion. That blanket creates strange bedfellows ...

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 5, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

CA offender, the article does not state how Vazquez's husband entered this US--whether he hired someone to cross, dug a 50 yard tunnel, climbed a 12-foot fence with razor-wire, OR as MOST do, overstayed his visa. I certainly do not know their particular case and the article does not enter into specifics.

As usual you jump to quick and predictable conclusions to suit your personal and your politics.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 5, 2013 at 9:31 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Personal prejudices, that is.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 5, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

John Mark, mmmaybe you should move to China. Their government executes more people than any other country in the world. Now, were it not for the fact that it is Asian and not Anglo . . . or French/Belgian and their mixed economy as opposed to full Capitalist, it might be the perfect fit for you!!! Now, since you say you are not a "selfish" man, are you willing to pay far more taxes to execute 10 or 11 million human beings? We'll be right up there next to Hitler and Stalin and maybe Ganghis Khan! Thanks for your suggestion.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 5, 2013 at 10:26 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Bottom line is, no matter how the illegal immigrant got here, they are now here illegally and breaking the law just by existing in this country. They forfeit many courtesies afforded to law-abiding citizens of this country.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 5, 2013 at 11:52 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Duck,

The ACLU is uneven in their application of civil rights which usually favors the left.

I have not heard much from the ACLU over Obama's intense campaign to destroy many civil liberties. Wiretapping, IRS/AG corruption, reporter intimidation, invasion of privacy, leak witch hunts, drones, secret prisons, assassinations, torture, war expansion, etc.

If the ACLU is about civil liberties they should be leading the call to impeach Obama.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 5, 2013 at 12:19 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Mission,

We do know he's here illegally and the ACLU is implying that he didn't understand he's committing a crime.

Although with the lack of enforcement, a porous border, and illegal aliens being permitted to live here for years (15 years in this case), maybe that is true. Perhaps they don't realize what they're doing is wrong.

That is a good argument for expanding enforcement and increasing public awareness through PSAs in newspapers, TV, and radio on both sides of the border.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 6, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

John Mark, check past Supreme Court rulings, being foreigners doesn't forfeit them civil rights.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 6, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

"illegal aliens being permitted to live here for years (15 years in this case),"

It's not that they are "permitted," they are living semi-clandestinly and have not been caught by the proper immigration authorites. Obviously in this case, the smart thing would have been for the citizen wife to assist him in obtaining legal residency.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 6, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Ca defender, I guess it's like the chicken or egg argument for which came first. I don't think the ACLU consciously decides to take on more "left" issues, I think they try to fill a void of those who otherwise are usually the post powerless in our society. This often involves minorities, the poor, and other groups often marginalized and not able to carry a powerful voice an stand up against government abuse the way big corporations or influential wealthy insiders can. When you look at the political spectrum it's most often (not always mind you, but most often) the fact that left-leaning politics favors the poor and marginalized an right-leaning politics favors te rich and powerful law enforcement and military interests. I think this is what explains the ACLU taking on issues one would perceive as "left leaning". It's certainly not exclusive though, in fact didn't they support Mr. Limbaugh in a legal squabble he was involved in years ago?

I think government overreach is something we need to be wary of regardless of which party is involved. That is why I am dismayed and disgusted over the Verizon phone scandal involving the government that is making headlines today.

I fundamentally disagree with President Obama and Sen. Feinstein and fully agree with Mr. Al Gore and Sen. Bernie Sanders who have come out firmly against this. Note these are all "liberals" yet they have different ideas about what constituted a dismal overreach by the government.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 9, 2013 at 4:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Mission,

Yes, that would have been the smart thing for his wife to do. Instead she harbored an illegal alien which is a felony and carries a fine, seizure of vehicles used in commission of the crime, and up to 10 years in prison. Not smart.

Duck,

I just don't see the ACLU as balanced. Their response been quite muted to the PRISM scandal. They should put every last lawyer they have into it, but it appears they're too afraid of retaliation by Obama (IRS, FBI?) or perhaps they were ordered to ignore it.

No matter which happened, they curiously seem more interested in a handful of lapel cameras than fighting one of the largest losses of civil liberties in American history.

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Avatar for user 'roadrunner'

roadrunner | June 9, 2013 at 7:40 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

It makes me sad to read all the negative comments above. I taught ESL to immigrants for many years and can tell you they are the sweetest, kindest, most genuine people you can meet. They really want to learn English, unlike many native born students who often cause behavior problems in the classroom out of "entitlement" and just plain meanness. My grandparents were immigrants from Europe. I am sure they endured the same kind of racism that illegal and legal immigrants endure today from the same kind of people. Take a closer look at those folks who line the driveway at Home Depot. They just want to feed their families. And remember, "there but for the grace of god go you and I...."

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 11, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Roadrunner,

It is true that some illegal aliens are nice but that doesn't absolve them of the crime. What does it say to legal immigrants when we ignore (or even support) illegal aliens? It is a slap in their face and an insult to their effort which includes your grandparents.

Duck,

I must apologize. It appears the ACLU is fighting PRISM as they just sued Obama for violating the freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy of all Americans:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/11/obama-aclu-lawsuit-national-security-agency-surveillance/2412885

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 11, 2013 at 8:38 p.m. ― 1 year, 3 months ago

Some immigrants are good for this country, some are bad for this country. The illegal ones are breaking the law, and they should be treated the same way we treat other criminals.

Like starting a relationship with someone by cheating on your spouse, an immigrant who starts their immigration journey with an illegal act is probably not the type of person we want to welcome with open arms.

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