Voluntary Departure: Effect of a Motion To Reopen or Reconsider or a Petition for Review
The immigration laws provide that an alien may request and receive a grant of voluntary departure in certain cases; such a grant allows an alien to depart voluntarily during a specified period of time after the order is issued, in lieu of being removed under an order of removal. Voluntary departure is an agreed upon exchange of benefits between the alien and the government that provides tangible benefits for aliens who do depart during the time allowed. There are severe statutory penalties, however, for aliens who voluntarily fail to depart during the time allowed for voluntary departure. This proposed rule would amend the Department of Justice (Department) regulations regarding voluntary departure to allow an alien to elect to file a motion to reopen or reconsider, but also to provide that the alien's filing of a motion to reopen or reconsider prior to the expiration of the voluntary departure period will have the effect of automatically terminating the grant of voluntary departure. Similarly, the rule also provides that the alien's filing of a petition for judicial review shall automatically terminate the grant of voluntary departure. In other words, the rule would afford the alien the option either to abide by the terms of the grant of voluntary departure, in lieu of an order of removal, or to forgo the benefits of voluntary departure and instead challenge the final order on the merits in a motion to reopen or reconsider or a petition for review. If the alien elects to seek further review and forgo voluntary departure, the alien will be subject to the alternate order of removal that was issued in conjunction with the grant of voluntary departure, similar to other aliens who were found to be removable. But this approach also means he or she will not be subject to the penalties for failure to depart voluntarily. The rule also amends the bond provisions for voluntary departure to make clear that an alien's failure to post a voluntary departure bond as required will not have the effect of exempting the alien from the penalties for failure to depart under the grant of voluntary departure. Aliens who are required to post a voluntary departure bond remain liable for the amount of the voluntary departure bond if they do not depart as they had agreed. However, the rule clarifies the circumstances in which aliens will be able to get a refund of the bond amount upon proof that they are physically outside of the United States. In addition, the rule provides that, at the time the immigration judge issues a grant of voluntary departure, the immigration judge will also set a specific dollar amount of not less than $3,000 as a civil money penalty if the alien voluntarily fails to depart within the time allowed.