PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why A Growing Number Of Undocumented Immigrants Are Choosing To Leave The U.S. Voluntarily

Creative Commons

Over a week ago, immigrant communities in ten major metro areas nationwide - including South Florida -  spent days in fear after the Trump administration announced a plan to hold mass roundups of undocumented immigrants. Those raids never materialized.

For many undocumented families, the prospect of being deported to their country of origin is one of their worst nightmares. But a recent study by non-partisan news outlet  The Marshall Project shows that more immigrants are giving up legal fights and the threat of arrest and detention and leaving the United States voluntarily. 

It's called "voluntary departure," and it allows a non-citizen to depart the United States by a certain date without an order of removal (deportation) on his or her record. The individual would leave at his or her own expense, within a set period of time -- typically up to 120 days.

"I'm not a big advocate of it," says Patricia Hernandez, founding partner of Kendall-based Rotella & Hernandez, a firm that specializes in immigration law. "There are very harsh consequences to voluntary departure," says Hernandez.

For one thing, if an individual has accrued what U.S. immigration authorities call "unlawful presence," i.e., being physically  present in the United States without the proper authorization, trying to re-enter the United States lawfully in the future will be difficult even if you've voluntarily departed. 

However, Hernandez acknowledges that it's still better than getting an order of deportation. And as for the surge in voluntary departure applications since Donald Trump became President, Hernandez says   has noticed a trend among her clients, many of whom are from Central America.

"After they've been detained for a couple of months, they just decide that they're going to give up," she says. "They can't take it anymore and they've told me, 'Let's just ask the judge for voluntary departure and I'll just go back home. ' " 




Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.