The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a person who was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge and left in compliance with that order was considered to have “voluntarily deported” for purposes of a sentencing enhancement following a subsequent immigration crime conviction. In U.S. v. Murillo Acosta, individual in question pled guilty to using a fraudulent visa to enter the U.S. in violation of federal laws. The sentencing judge increased his offense level under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines by two levels. The sentencing enhancement provision used applies to an individual who is in the U.S. without authorization and “has been deported (voluntarily or involuntarily) on one or more occasions prior to the instant offense.” The issue before the Fifth Circuit was whether Murillo-Acosta’s voluntary departure constitutes a “voluntary or involuntary” deportation. In a three-page opinion, the court held that it does not matter whether a formal order of removal was issued: a voluntary departure is treated as a deportation for purposes of the sentencing guidelines.
Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicated in correspondence to stakeholders that it will reopen "all I-601A waiver applications that were denied prior to January 24, 2014, solely because of a prior criminal offense, in order to determine whether there is reason to believe the prior criminal offense might render the applicant inadmissible."
Late Thursday, the Associated Press reported that President Obama has directed Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, to review the agency's deportation policy to operate "more humanely within the confines of the law." Critics, including a spokesman from the office of House Speaker John Boehner, have indicated that until immigration laws are reformed through the democratic process, the executive branch has a duty to enforce the laws as they are written. Supporters of immigration reform were encouraged by the President's showing of compassion toward the families of those facing deportation.