The separation of children from their parents during immigration detention has sparked awareness and outrage from people in Florida and across the country. Now, parents are being offered voluntary departure orders by government officials, being told it will speed their cases and that they will be reunified with their separated children before deportation. This is raising alarms among immigration attorneys and advocates for the rights of migrants, because they note that many parents may not fully understand what they are agreeing to before signing the document.
In particular, immigration lawyers noted that there is no reason why it is necessary for parents to be reunified with their children through deportation. They also noted that offering family reunification was an extreme form of pressure being exerted on people, many of whom may agree to sign the order simply to benefit from a promised swift family reunion. At that point, the parents will be given the option for deportation with their children or to leave their kids behind, given that children have greater protection under the law and are being given separate immigration proceedings.
While government officials said, without giving specifics, that "many parents" choose to be removed without their children, they did not say whether these cases involved people with close family members who were already in the United States. In addition, advocates note, it is extremely difficult to handle the immigration system especially for undocumented people who do not have lawyers. There are over 2,000 children in custody separated from their parents as of June 2018.
Deportation is not the only option for immigrant parents to be reunified with their children. Of course, deportation and removal proceedings affect not only those currently in detention but many families across the country. An immigration lawyer can often be of assistance in this regard.