In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in deportation and voluntary departure. “Voluntary departure allows you to leave the United States within a certain time period on your own, rather than under a removal order” (Bray para. 5). According to the data from the Justice Department that was obtained by the Marshall Project, the number of monthly applications for voluntary departure doubled from 2016 to 2018. It also reached a high in Oct. 2018 with 4,192 application (Monthly Applications for Voluntary Departure). Why has there been such an increase in immigrants applying for voluntary departure? There are multiple reasons for this change, such as not being able to receive a green card, not enjoying their life in America, and fearing they may be deported by the US government.

People trying to immigrate to America leave the US because they have trouble getting a green card or they do not like the life they have in America. Many immigrants who live in the US are poor and have to work very hard to find jobs and make money. Some are not allowed to work, so they have to find jobs that can pay cash. They also have to go through the long process of getting a green card which takes many years. Many of the immigrants applying for a green card do not get approved. Behold the Dreamers, was set during the Great Recession in 2007. At this time, many families were struggling to make ends meet. “Papier is not everything. In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering” (Mbue 246). Although Americans have an American passport and papers that immigrants wish they had, they are still struggling. The Recession affected everyone in America. Some people are born in America who live in poverty. Immigrants then have to fight with them for jobs and welfare. People born in America will get priority over those who are trying to immigrate here. “I don’t like what my life has become in this country. I don’t know how long I can continue living like this, Neni. The suffering in Limbe was bad, but this one here, right now … it’s more than I can take” (Mbue 245). Jende and his family had to struggle to make money. Jende worked two jobs every day. He would leave early in the morning and come home after midnight. He made barely enough to afford to pay for their bills and to feed their children. He found living in America very hard. He thought of what his life back home would be. Jende’s situation is similar to other immigrants who have to make a tough decision if they want to stay in America or leave. Although America has many opportunities it also has many hardships that some immigrants are not prepared for.

Another reason why people trying to immigrate to America leave is that they fear they may be deported by the US government. If you do not get a green card from the US government then you will be deported. Some immigrants choose to leave voluntarily instead of being deported. Leaving voluntarily is better than getting deported because it makes it easier to re-enter America. “If you are deported, you have to wait years to apply for a visa to re-enter the United States, but those who leave voluntarily don’t have the same wait” (Thompson and Calderón para. 8). When you are deported it is much harder to get back into America because you were considered an illegal immigrant and have a longer waiting period until you are allowed back into the US. But at the same time if you choose to leave voluntarily then your immigration case will be closed and you would not receive a green card. The number of people trying to get green cards is so huge that our immigration system has trouble monitoring everyone. They are trying to close more immigration cases to keep up with the current demand for green cards. Immigration judges have offered voluntary departure to close cases quicker instead of dragging them on with multiple appeals (Thompson and Calderón para. 10). With the big push from Donald Trump on the deportation of illegal immigrants, judges and ICE officials have been trying to get illegal immigrants out of the country faster. Voluntary departure is very helpful because the government does not have to pay for them to leave the country, and they do not have to forcefully remove them. Because of this ICE officials have been making the push for more voluntary departures. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increasingly gone after immigrants who have no criminal backgrounds—those who are more likely to qualify for voluntary departure” (Thompson and Calderón para. 10). The government wants to lower the number of illegal immigrants and voluntary departure helps make the process quicker. So the government will keep pushing for people to choose voluntary departure.

In conclusion, the sudden push for the deportation of illegal immigrants has sent many returning to their home countries in fear that they may be deported. They rather go willingly than be kicked out of a country which if they are deported may take years for them to be able to reenter the US.  After they leave, some apply to come back to the US legally. For others, America may be a distant memory as they try to rebuild their lives in their home countries.

Work Cited:

Bray, Ilona. “Voluntary Departure vs. Deportation.”, Nolo, 5 Mar. 2015,

Calderón, Andrew R., and Katie Park. “Monthly Applications for ‘Voluntary Departure.’” The Marshall Project, 2019,

Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers: a Novel. 4th Estate, 2017.

Thompson, Christie, and Andrew R. Calderón. “’Voluntary Departure’ Applications Surge Among Immigrants.” The Marshall Project, The Marshall Project, 8 May 2019,

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January 10, 2020 6:49 pm

This is very well written as a way to present the information you have found. It’s interesting how the US has been built up as a place of opportunity for immigrants and refugees throughout its history. That long-held status is falling apart now because we’ve made it so complicated to become a legal citizen and make a living as an immigrant or refugee. I think your article is a great way to show how and why that American ideal is fading away.

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