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.
When people come to me for help and tell me that their spouse or partner is threatening them with deportation, several things run through my