ICE will announce Thursday that it has arrested more than 170 illegal immigrants in a nationwide operation targeting people who had promised to leave the country, then reneged on that promise.
The migrants were given the chance to do what’s known as a “voluntary departure.” That’s an alternative to deportation, and it can help someone avoid the serious consequences that come with a formal removal, such as an abrupt ouster and a long-time bar on attempting to reenter legally.
Under voluntary departure, migrants agree to self-deport by a certain time, usually 60 or 120 days. That gives them a chance to get affairs in order.
But many end up defying their pledges, hoping to disappear back into the shadows.
ICE said in a social media post that it just completed a 21-day operation to try to round some of them up.
Failing to depart can earn a fine and an automatic 10-year bar on being able to petition to come back legally.
One immigrant-rights group complained Wednesday, in advance of the announcement, that ICE’s operation was a “last-ditch effort to drive up deportations” before the end of the Trump administration.
“Despite claims of focusing on “public safety” concerns during the pandemic, ICE’s new operation targets minor offenders, not dangerous criminals,” said Immigrants’ List.
Immigration activists argue that being in the country illegally shouldn’t be a reason to be deported.
Homeland Security officials, though, say if someone has been ordered deported by a judge — or, as in this case, made a commitment to leave — and is refusing to go, that must be enforced, or else it ruins the integrity of the immigration system.
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