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Thousands of foreign-born children enter the United States every year. Many, particularly those crossing at the Mexican border, arrive without legal immigration status and unaccompanied by adults. Once here, these children have certain rights under the Constitution and the immigration laws of this country. Their primary right is to a deportation hearing. Under the current procedures used by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), however, these children are encouraged to waive that right and "elect" voluntary departure. The voluntary departure process requires that they admit to having entered the country illegally, choose the country to which they will return, and leave without having any hearing. If the children are Mexican, as most are, they spend a short time in a "staging facility" before they are quickly returned to their homeland. If they come from a country that is not contignous with the United States, however, they are transferred to a long-term faculty, where they remain until transportation is arranged back to their home country.


Originally published in the Duke Law Journal in 1988.