Bryan Caplan  

The Removal/Return Distinction

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Deportations Statistics... The Numerate John Mueller...
Here's a good practical discussion of what the government's removal/return distinction means on the ground.  Suppose you're on the authorities' radar.  You could fight them in court.  But:
[I]f one cannot afford to put up such a fight or if one simply lacks the legal qualifications to win a deportation case or appeal or to reverse an adverse Immigration & Naturalization Service decision, it is often preferable that such a person voluntary leaves the US WITHOUT BEING ORDERED DEPORTED. This compromise is known as voluntary departure.

[...]

Although it results in the ultimate departure of the US, [voluntary departure] is always preferable to being ordered DEPORTED, an order of DEPORTATION / REMOVAL means that one CANNOT return to the US without special permission from the Immigration & Naturalization Service which is hard to obtain. 

Further details:

[T]o many people, voluntary departure is not considered a successful disposition of their matter. After, all they still must leave the US. However, voluntary departure should not be considered in a negative light. It is actually a privilege that one must win. Many people do not qualify for such a privilege and find themselves subject to a permanent or long term bar from reentry. However, as I have stated before, the person who leaves under voluntary departure can return to the US legally and is treated as if he was never deported, a much better alternative to deportation. 

"Better"?  Sure.  "Much better"?  That's hard to believe.  Since the typical illegal immigrant will never get legal permission to reside in the U.S., "voluntary" departure apparently just buys you the future possibility of a tourist visa.

Am I missing anything?


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
mike shupp writes:

Not that I can see. But that's reality, and it's dull.

The opposite notion is that the open-handed, generous, or even gullible USA allows zillions of would be immigrants to enter the country each year, so many that no one but determined and deliberate criminals comes across our borders by other-than-legal means. This is part of our civil religion, and God will surely strike you dead if you run for political office and give signs of accepting any other faith.

Theology ALWAYS trumps economics.

PrometheeFeu writes:

"Am I missing anything?"

Despicable xenophobia, lies and dishonesty by government officials?

liberty writes:

" "voluntary" departure apparently just buys you the future possibility of a tourist visa."

The future possibility of a tourist visa, work visa, and possibly even citizenship (e.g., through marriage) etc. Generally, the same future possibilities that the person had prior to initially being caught.

Proper deportation (removal) means they handcuff you and forcibly remove you - put you on a plane, for example. Voluntary departure means that you are cooperating with their request that you leave, so you stay in good stead and can return in the future. This is the same way it's done in the UK, as I learned when I was fighting for citizenship and faced overstaying my tourist visa.

liberty writes:

Bottom line: to someone who considers the place home, has family there, etc. the distinction between being barred forever and having the ability to visit and fight for citizenship or other visas is massive.

Tim Worstall writes:

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.

Tim Worstall writes:

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.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@liberty:

Trust me, deportation is not the only way you can be handcuffed and escorted to the airplane.

I have a family member who was denied entry to the US based on nothing more than violating a rule that immigration officers have made up. (If you're on a tourist visa, immigration officers don't like it if you don't have a return ticket) That family member is 5'2, was cooperative throughout the whole process. Yet, they made her change into prison overalls for the overnight stay in a "detention center". Then, they handcuffed her and escorted her to the plane. It takes a special kind of stupidity and cruelty to thus humiliate and distress someone based on nothing more than your feeling they might overstay a visa.

Peter writes:

That's not true at all liberty. My wife was advised by multiple counsels to not voluntarily depart under any circumstance given DHS is loath to "forgive" or "forget" and your past behavior stays in the system forever. In my wifes case she is getting caught up in a canceled visa application from fifteen years ago that she lied on in a non-material way (and which she didn't like about on her actual non-canceled submitted visa). Basically if we lose our final appeal in three months before the immigration court voluntary departure isn't going to remove her permanent bar so might as well stay and live illegally dodging deportation until amnesty comes (which we all know will happen in the next twenty years). Even if she were to leave now before the final ruling it won't help. The other commentators said it best, voluntary departure is just for suckers who believe DHS is looking at for the best interest of their American family members.

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