April 1, 2010

Julio Martinez released from prison

Julio MartínezJulio Martínez
Photo: State Journal, Kentucky

I have some good news to report regarding the 19-year-old Honduran illegally brought to the US when he was seven by his mother. (See my article Hard life ahead in Honduras for one deportee for the background.)

On March 29, students held a rally in front of US Representative Ben Chandler's office in support of Julio Martínez. Numerous calls and emails had been sent to his office as well as to US immigration officials. See the State-Journal articles Students rally to stop Honduran's deportation and Friends drum up support for Honduran facing deportation.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also made inquiries on Martinez's behalf. Durbin, a Democrat, is the chief proponent of The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants who arrived as children and graduated from US high schools to earn conditional residency. They could later earn the right to apply for permanent residency by graduating from college or serving in the military, and not being involved in any crimes.

According to Wikipedia's DREAM Act article, "Currently, alien minors in the United States can only obtain permanent status through their parents; there is no independent method to accomplish this.[3][4] If a child is brought into the country undocumented there is no method of becoming a documented resident."

After receiving several offers of help for Julio (a place to stay, help finding work, help adjusting to the country) from several US Americans in Honduras, I contacted the reporter, Charlie Pearl, at the State-Journal to ask if he could put me in touch with Julio's friends. Charlie wrote back but at the time had not been able to get in touch with them.

Since then, Julio has been released from jail. His attorney Rachel Newton credits the tremendous citizen pressure. "This case speaks to multiple failings of our immigration system and several of the many ways in which the system is broken," said Newton. Read more from the Lexingon Herald-Leader: Frankfort teen released from deportation center

Julio is not out of the woods yet. His case has been transferred back to the original Texas court who held the immigration hearing in 2000. His attorney filed a motion to rescind the deportation order and US Immigration (ICE) immediately filed a response saying that ICE did not oppose the motion. He could still be taken back into custody and deported if the Texas judge rules against him.

Reader comments on several of these articles show the strong anti-immigrant sentiment among some Americans, with comments such as "He should have known better" (at seven years old?), and accusations of "stealing tax money" and "hatching a master plot". Some readers see nothing wrong with punishing a child for the acts of the parent, even 11 years later.

One brainiac even decided that
"The only solution is that every Hispanic person needs to be rounded up and deported so everyone is treated equally." Apparently he was asleep during US history class and didn't know that many Hispanic families were in America before it was the USA and possibly even before his own family became American immigrants.

A recent US Supreme Court decision regarding Honduran Jose Padilla shows that not even US attorneys understand the US immigration system. "As the Court concedes, “[i]mmigration law can be complex”; “it is a legal specialty of its own”; and “[s]ome members of the bar who represent clients facing criminal charges, in either state or federal court or both, may not be well versed in it.” So to hold seven-year-olds or even 18-year-olds responsible for figuring out the immigration law and doing the right thing is a little ridiculous.

In an opinion column, Immigration reform now − Ky. case exposes mindless system, the Lexington Herald-Leader points out that in apparent conflict with the stated policy, ICE has set arrest quotas for immigration agents in a memo.

The Washington Post explained that one reason total deportations are falling is because it takes longer to deport a criminal (average 45 days) than a non-criminal (11 days), creating a shortage of detention beds. "For ICE leadership, it's not about keeping the community safe. It's all about chasing this 400,000 number," said an ICE workers union representative. Therefore, in order to meet quotas, ICE has pumped up deportations by going after immigrants who have only immigration related or other minor violations − in other words, the dangerous or violent criminals have more rights than non-criminal immigrants! ICE has since rescinded the memo.

The State-Journal also reported an ironic twist involving the Honduran Consulate in Chicago in this article: Julio: 'I'm so happy I'm out.' Many Honduran Consulate offices have notoriously not been providing services to Honduran citizens since June 28, 2009. Many citizens have been waiting more than 8 months to obtain passports or renewals and most of the consulates in the US have not even been answering their telephones. But the Chicago Consulate took instant action to provide Julio's deportation travel documents.
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