[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] settled a federal lawsuit (text) on Wednesday, requiring US immigration authorities to ensure that undocumented Mexican immigrants are made aware of their right to a hearing before an immigration judge. The class action lawsuit, filed in June 2013, alleged that immigration authorities in Southern California threatened undocumented Mexican immigrants with jail time and falsely informed them of their ability to arrange their legal status from Mexico in order to encourage voluntary departure. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) [official websites] have denied the use of coercion or deception in offering the option of voluntary departure, which would prohibit immigrants from reentry for 10 years, but would help them avoid the potentially serious consequences of formal deportation actions. Based on the terms of the settlement, agencies will be required to provide written information and establish a hotline informing undocumented immigrants of their rights. Additionally, government officials must allow the undocumented individuals to use a working phone and a list of legal providers for two hours before requiring them to decide whether or not to voluntarily depart.
There have been many recent developments surrounding US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder], which has been a controversial subject over the past several years. In June the Obama administration [official website] announced that it would boost the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers [JURIST report] to decrease the flow of undocumented children into the country. The decision was prompted in part by a US Supreme Court ruling earlier that month, which held that a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act does not automatically grant relief [JURIST report] to all aliens who qualify as "child" derivative beneficiaries at the time a visa petition is filed but age out of qualification by the time the visa becomes available to the primary beneficiary. In April the US Department of Justice released statistics [JURIST report] that show a steady decline in new deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in US immigration courts over the last five years, and that more judges have begun ruling against deportations. In November Obama issued a memorandum [JURIST report] giving US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the authority to "parole in place" the children, spouses and parents of active duty members of the armed forces, the selected reserve of the ready reserve and former members thereof. In October Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill granting special immigration status to Iraqis who have aided US forces.