“This is Officer Carter. Thank you for your help with his voluntary departure.”

  1. As always, names and details are changed. Sometimes, while an individual incident may inspire a particular story, characters and situations may be composites of multiple people or events.
  2. “Voluntary departure” sounds simple at face value, but is actually a complicated ethical dilemma that plays out in the lives of mixed-status families throughout the country. Essentially, when an undocumented individual is detained, he may be given the option to “voluntarily depart” or await his immigration case, the outcome of which may be a removal order (“deportation”). Many individuals choose to “voluntarily depart” because they cannot tolerate being in detention any longer, cannot afford a lawyer, or believe a successful case to be unlikely. Additionally, the ban on re-entry into the U.S. varies for deportation versus voluntary departure. Generally speaking, when one is deported, he becomes “inadmissable” to the US for a number of years. When one voluntarily departs, he is not “inadmissable,” and there is the hope of one day returning to the United States. As we discuss here, whether one will actually be able to return is never known, and community members must make these decisions by weighing the violence of detention and the ephemeral hope of possibly returning to their homes in the U.S. at an unknown time in the future.

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PhD in public health. He/Him. 🌈✊🏽. Talk and write about immigration. Author of “Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid”

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William Lopez

William Lopez

PhD in public health. He/Him. 🌈✊🏽. Talk and write about immigration. Author of “Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid”

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