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Family members reunite through bars and mesh of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, California. A recent settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Homeland Security could allow some people who were voluntarily repatriated to Mexico to come back.
A settlement that requires immigration officials to better inform immigrants of their rights before they agree to return to their native countries could allow some people who were repatriated to Mexico to come back to United States.
The settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Homeland Security stems from a 2013 lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of nine Mexican nationals and Southern California immigrant advocacy groups.
The plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that they were pressured by immigration authorities to sign what’s known as “voluntary return” or "voluntary departure" papers, with immigration authorities failing to inform them of their right to a hearing, or that they could be barred from the United States for ten years.
The complaint states that "the immigration enforcement agencies operating in Southern California regularly pressure, deceive, and threaten Mexican nationals who are eligible to reside in the United States lawfully - and have built lives in the United States over decades - into signing their own expulsion orders."
Now, others who were voluntarily repatriated to Mexico from Southern California between 2009 and 2013 may be able to come back – provided they can prove they have the right to. Among other things, including their ties to the U.S. and good moral character, they’ll have to prove that they accepted a voluntary return and, if possible, come up with records.
“They’ll have to show that they qualify because they had a voluntary return, so they’ll want the information: A sworn statement, documents that they signed, if they did have them and immigration issued them," said Alma Rosa Nieto, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles.
Nieto says she anticipates confusion: The settlement doesn't apply to people who have been formally deported, a different kind of removal process. And people who came back to the U.S. illegally are disqualified.
This would include people like Ignacio, a restaurant cook who returned illegally to his home in San Diego after accepting a voluntary return. He was sent to Mexico in 1999, before the window for the lawsuit. But his thinking at the time applies to others like him, with families and jobs in the U.S.
The first time 17-year-old Yoel faced an immigration judge in the courtroom earlier this year, she was so petrified she could hardly speak.
“I felt nervous," said Yoel, a soft-spoken girl who didn't want her last name used because of her status. " They asked me my name, and I wasn’t able to completely say it, because of my nerves.”
Terrifying as it might have been, it was not nearly as terrifying as what she left behind last fall in San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- considered the most violent city in the world; a place where gangs are especially powerful.
“I was threatened," she said. "I couldn’t go anywhere they because always followed me. When I tried to report them, so they'd be careful around me, they threatened me. They told me that if I reported them, they would kill my entire family.”
Yoel says she was targeted because a local gang leader wanted her for himself, by force - regardless of how she felt: "He threatened me, and wanted me to be with him, either the right way or the wrong way. I didn’t want to live like that. I didn’t want to live with a gang member."
She fled the home where she lived with her mother and younger siblings for her aunt's home. But members of the gang followed her there one day, forcing her to flee out the back door. It was then that Yoel decided to leave Honduras. She left in the company of a family friend, a man headed north to work who agreed to look after her.
They made it to Mexico, and from there it was a harrowing journey north on the train migrants call “La Bestia,” or The Beast. Migrants with no other means of transportation climb atop the train en route to the United States, but some don't make it: Some fall to their death or are maimed, while others are preyed on by criminals.
Juanita Rivera of Puerto Rico came with her son, an LA resident, to take part during a march on Wednesday, Aug. 27 supporting immigrant worker protections in any administrative relief plan that President Obama announces in the coming weeks. The march led from La Placita Church to Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown LA.
President Obama is expected to announce new immigration measures in the coming weeks that could affect millions of people in the country illegally.
What he will do is a source of great speculation in immigration circles. But Obama was called on to take bold action during a town hall Wednesday evening in downtown Los Angeles that drew an estimated 600 people, including immigrants, politicians and law enforcement officials.
Inside La Placita Church, Maria Elena Durazo, chief of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said immigrants are looking for four things from the president: Work permits. A stop to deportations. Rights for workers. For police to stop helping federal immigration officials.
"It is our community's priority to obtain administrative relief," Durazo said in Spanish.
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Migrants arrive at a rest stop in Ixtepec, Mexico, after a 15-hour ride atop a freight train headed north toward the U.S. border on Aug. 4, 2013. Thousands of migrants ride atop the trains, known as "La Bestia" or The Beast, during their long and perilous journey through Mexico to the U.S. The Mexican government is now reportedly planning to increase railway surveillance as a way of deterring Central American migration north.
Mexico To Increase Railroad Surveillance In Hopes Of Deterring Immigrants - Associated Press According to a federal official in Mexico, "the government plans to improve railway surveillance and increase the speed of northbound trains in hopes of deterring Central American migrants from riding on top of freight cars...the measures aim to fight human trafficking, strengthen railway security, and protect migrants who historically have jumped on the trains they call 'The Beast' to get to the U.S.-Mexico border."
Obama pressed to expand deportation program for millions - The Hill As the White House weighs executive action on immigration, advocates argue that President Obama has the authority to halt deportations. From the story: "Legal scholars promoting broad changes to Obama's deportation policy on Tuesday set out what they said was the legal basis for new executive action, including an expansion of DACA to cover thousands — perhaps millions — more illegal immigrants."
Breaking Bad and Modern Family were the big winners at the 2014 Emmy Awards.
Women and minorities — not so much.
Things looked promising for Netflix's Orange is the New Black, which led the pack of shows with Emmy nods. But on Monday night, the female-helmed prison dramedy with one of the most diverse casts on TV was shut out of all five major categories for which it had been nominated.
In fact, no performers of color took home a statue Monday, though some of the nominees had been considered top contenders including Angela Bassett (FX's American Horror Story: Coven) and Andre Braugher (Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
Darnell Hunt, who studies the media as director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, said he was not surprised by the lack of diversity among winners.