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Activists call deportation of father a miscarriage of justice

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A father of three has been deported to El Salvador in a case that highlights the inequities and inhuman bureaucracy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and America’s immigration system. Even though Salomon Guevara met several requirements to stay in the country, and the El Salvador Consulate appealed on his behalf to let him stay in the country, ICE’s Dallas office moved quickly and deported him on Friday the 13th.

Salomon Guevara came to the United States in 2000 as a foreign national with Temporary Protected Status, which allows residents from violent and oppressive countries to stay in the United States legally. Guevara lived in a suburb of Dallas with his wife from El Salvador (also living here under protected status), and two of their three children are American citizens. His protected status allowed him to secure a valid social security number, and he paid his taxes just like a citizen. He was active in his church as a Sunday School teacher and his kids do well in school.

Guevara’s problems began when his protected status lapsed due to a paperwork error. Though he attempted to rectify the situation, ICE issued a deportation order. Guevara then filed an I-246 request (which postpones deportation for a year), which was granted in 2011 by Dallas ICE director Nuria Prentes. I-246 renewal requests can be filed each year, and so long as the immigrant's situation has not changed, they are often approved. However, when Simona Flores took over as the new director of the Dallas office of ICE in 2012, approvals for most I-246 requests ended. Rather than providing a reason why an I-246 was rejected, Flores sends out generic form letters, leading many to believe the requests are not receiving due process. Flores rejected his I-246 request last year, putting Guevara on the fast track to deportation.

Guevara went to the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) in November seeking help. They filed another I-246 on his behalf, and asked for more time to review his case. Besides of his eligibility for protected status, Guevara also qualifies for relief under the “extreme family separation” doctrine noted in the Morton Memo, a directive issued in 2011 by the former ICE national director that allows for a delay of deportations of foreign nationals with family members in the United States.

Complicating matters is a misdemeanor conviction for theft that provided cause for deportation. Guevara maintained his innocence in the matter, stating it was the result of a mix-up with his job which resulted in the wrong pickup of goods from a business. His court-appointed attorney suggested he plead no contest, and he was given deferred adjudication. The judgment, however, carries a different legal weight for foreign nationals. For American citizens, deferred adjudication is not part of one’s permanent record, but it is viewed as a guilty conviction by American immigration law. ICIE learned that local police never interviewed a key witness that would have proven Guevara innocent, and asked ICE to delay his deportation and look into the matter. ICE refused.

Guevara’s case is indicative of the shortfalls of America’s immigration system: every foreign national’s case is unique, and rife with complicated legal issues which deserve personalized consideration. While our immigration system allows for wide discretion in handling the status of foreign nationals, it is rare for ICE or immigration judges to exercise that discretion in an immigrant’s favor. Worse yet, ICE agents often fail to give foreign nationals the due process immigration law allows. In a complaint letter to federal officials filed before Guevara’s deportation, ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg says Guevara’s case is but one of dozens of documented instances of misconduct by the Dallas ICE office.

Isenberg says Guevara was making every effort to rectify his status with ICE, including going to their office voluntarily to discuss his case. It was at one of those meetings in November that ICE unexpectedly took him into custody and informed him he would be deported. He was not allowed to contact his family, and his wife, concerned when her husband did not return home, visited the Dallas ICE office with members of Isenberg’s ICIE staff to determine his whereabouts. Upon their arrival, ICE agents threatened to have Isenberg’s staff arrested if they did not leave. In the days that followed, ICE was of little help as Isenberg and his staff attempted to keep Guevara in the country. Isenberg said ICE staff even told Guevara’s wife that an emergency I-246 filed in an attempt to stay his deportation was still being considered, even while telling his staff as well as staff members of U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (who had inquired into Guevara’s case) that it had been denied and he would be deported. Isenberg said ICE’s actions to sabotage efforts to keep Guevara in the country amounts to no less than obstruction of justice.

When ICIE learned of Guevara’s deportation, the organization was holding their annual Christmas party. Instead of having a festive time, the staff mourned yet another family torn apart by ICE malice and indifference. Guevara’s family attended the party, which prompted ICIE founder Isenberg to send a message to Dallas ICE director Simona Flores, informing her of the consequences of her actions. “We were joined by the heartbroken family of Salomon Guevara, who was deported this morning despite a plea by me to delay his deportation,” the message said. “Your refusal to respond to my request and proceed with the deportation is yet another reason why I maintain you are not fit to hold the position of Field Director….thousand of foreign nationals under your direction have not been treated properly in violation of our Constitution. I consider you a mean and sinister person and hope this holiday season you receive a much-deserved lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. If the lump of coal were in proportion to the grief and pain you have caused citizens and non-citizens, it would take a freight train to deliver.”

For more information about The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment, click here.

Victor Medina writes for Yahoo News and his political blog WhenLiberalsAttack.com. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com. Click here to receive a weekly email update from WhenLiberalsAttack.com. To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SUBSCRIBE link here or at the top of this page.

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