Homeland Security officials have agreed to allow some migrants deported from Southern California to return to the U.S. as part of a settlement agreement with the ACLU, the civil rights group announced Wednesday.
The settlement comes in response to ACLU allegations that federal agents used deceptive tactics during immigration removal proceedings.
The organization claims that agents in recent years turned to intimidation, threats and misinformation to manipulate undocumented immigrants into agreeing to be voluntarily deported. Many deportees were longtime California residents with no serious criminal records who didn’t know they could challenge their deportations in court, according to the ACLU lawsuit filed last year.
"This is a historic settlement that will end a practice that tears families apart," said Norma Chavez Peterson, executive director of ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties.
Homeland Security officials admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to the repatriations and to implement several measures designed to protect migrants’ rights. Agents, for instance, can’t use threats or pressure, must advise people of their right to a hearing and provide access to a list of free legal service providers.
The settlement also calls for the U.S. to launch an outreach effort through Mexican media aimed at informing deportees of their opportunity to return if they are part of the settlement class.
Homeland Security officials, in a prepared statement, said coercion and deception by the two agencies that handle most removal proceedings -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection -- is “not tolerated.”
“In an effort to address the issues raised in this litigation, both agencies have agreed to supplement their existing procedures to ensure that foreign nationals fully comprehend the potential consequences of returning voluntarily to Mexico,” the statement read.
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