Having been caught up in the US system once "voluntary departure" is anything but.
On entering the country on a 10 year, multi-entry, business visa (I
owned a small business in the US at the time) immigration officials
decided that I should not be allowed to enter.
I was not allowed legal representation of any kind. I was
interviewed and then the notes of the interview were written up
afterwards (ie, what the officer remembered he and I had said, not what
was actually said).
I refused to sign such misleading notes. I was told that if I did
not I would be deported, my passport declared invalid for travel to the
US for the rest of my life.
So of course I signed and then made my "voluntary departure" which
included being held in a cell until the time of my flight, being
threatened with being handcuffed while going to the flight and the
return of my passport only upon arrival in London.
My 10 year multi entry visa had of course been cancelled. My
attempts to get matters sorted out, so that I could visit my business,
were rather hampered by the way that the interview notes which I had
signed under duress were taken to be the only valid evidence by the INS
(as was) that should be discussed when deciding upon visa status.
I lost the business and haven't bothered returning to the country in the more than decade since.
There is no law, evidence, representation nor even accurate
recording of proceedings in such "voluntary departures". It is entirely
at the whim of the agents at the border post. I was actually told by
one agent "I'm gonna screw you over".
Something of a difference from what's scrawled over that statue in
New York really. And I'm most certainly not the only business person
this sort of thing has happened to.
A collection of vignettes like this would make a great book.