Undocumented immigrants in Kentucky and elsewhere are at constant risk of being caught and deported. However, the deportation and removal process can require a lengthy detention period and the immigrant will not get to choose where in their home country they will be deported. Moreover, it may be years before they can reapply to enter the U.S. As recent numbers show, many immigrants in such situations are choosing to voluntarily leave the country.
Data from the Justice Department reveals that in the 2018 fiscal year the number of immigrants who applied for voluntary departure increased two-fold from the 2017 fiscal year. In 2018 there were almost 30,000 voluntary departure applications. Per U.S. law, if a person is deported, a certain number of years must pass before the person is eligible to apply for a visa to reenter the U.S. However, those who depart voluntarily do not have to wait as long and will not face incarceration if they are unlawfully in the country. Applications for voluntary departure require judicial approval.
It may be that the current crackdown on immigration makes voluntary departure a more attractive option than possibly being detained or having to go through a lengthy court process that may not be successful. However, it is important to note that the recent uptick in voluntary departures coincides with an uptick in both arrests and detention of immigrants in the U.S. Some experts maintain that courts are increasingly offering qualifying individuals the chance to voluntarily depart the country as a means of quickly resolving these types of cases and thus allowing judges to meet their production quotas.
Voluntary removal may be an option for some who are unlawfully in the country and want to have more control over how they are deported and when they can reapply for a visa to reenter the U.S. However, it is important that they understand what their rights are, including the right to a deportation hearing. Some may decide that going through the hearing process is in their best interests. Immigration attorneys can advise people on voluntary removal and deportation.