Deporting A Cause Celebre: The Case Of Pedro Gutierrez

By Raisa Camargo, Voxxi

Today was to have been Pedro Gutierrez‘ final day in the United States before being deported to his native Mexico.

The 24-year-old has spent 17 years of his life in the United States, living in Arizona with his grandmother. He aspires to join the U.S.Marine Corps, a move that would make him eligible for a pathway to citizenship under the proposed DREAM Act, which faces fierce opposition from conservative members of Congress.

Gutierrez is also a father to a U.S.-born baby daughter.

Both of these are factors that have convinced several members of Congress to champion Gutierrez’ case and to intensify a spotlight on President Barack Obama’s stringent policies onimmigration at a time when his presidential campaign dictates more leniency.

Perhaps because of those political pressures, Gutierrez last week was granted a one-year extension to stay in the United States — news he received from immigration authorities on the day he was to hold a press conference highlighting his situation.

It took 10,000 faxes to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the support of five members of Congress, in addition to public community outreach and several rallies, before Immigration and Customs Enforcement reversed the decision to deport Gutierrez, his lawyer said last week.

“When you have been here your whole life, you know nothing about Mexico,” Gutierrez said about his prospects of returning to his homeland. “You know only English, you know no currency, you have no family, no friends. Pretty much, you have nothing at all.”

Shortly before a scheduled press conference last week, ICE officials called Gutierrez’ lawyer, Mo Goldman, to declare they will extend his stay for another year.

Goldman filed an application on Feb. 7 to delay Gutierrez’ removal from the United States. It was denied April 2. When Goldman pressed for answers, ICE officials said they could not find a compelling reason to grant him a one-year stay.

This, despite a recent pronouncement by the Obama administration in favor of deporting undocumented immigrants who have criminal convictions and against breaking up families.

Prior to January, ICE had deferred Gutierrez’ stay.

“Over the past week and a half, there’s been a significant amount of pressure and inquiries being placed on DHS about this,” said Goldman. “Not only ourselves, but also from some of the allies in Congress that are trying to figure out why somebody who qualifies for discretion prior to the Morton memo suddenly doesn’t qualify.”

In June 2011, ICE director John Morton issued a memorandum outlining the Obama administration’s position on prosecuting deportation cases against undocumented immigrants. Goldman explained that the ICE memo provides very broad discretion over how agents may handle deportation efforts. They can go so far as not charging the person as removable or deportable, a decision made on a case-by-case basis.

In August, the Obama administration announced it would review 300,000 pending cases; so far the agency has reviewed half of them.

Immigration officials deported an estimated 46,000 parents of U.S. children during the first part of 2011. That prompted wide criticism of the Obama administration, which has already come under fire from several Hispanic groups for its record number of deportations over the past three years.

In New Bedford, Mass., for example, supporters are rallying to stop the deportation of Noelia Ramos, a mother of two who is suffering from postpartum depression. In 2007, Ramos was arrested in a raid at the Michael Bianco factory along with 300 other workers who were sent to detention centers in Texas.

Ramos has been separated from her two-month old son and four-year old daughter. Sen. John Kerry, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Il. ) have written a letter highlighting the case as an example of the administration’s criticized deportation of non-criminals.

“The results have been less than great,” said Adam Luna, political director of America’s Voice. “Many individuals with no criminal record have been deported or continue to be in proceedings. The effect that all of this is having on the immigrant Latino community … is what continues to have a reverberating effect in people’s views of how Washington is working for them.”

ICE officials continue to argue their main priority is the deportation of criminal offenders.

Earlier this month, the agency released statistics pointing to a six-day national operation that resulted in the arrests of more than 3,100 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions.

Yadira Garcia of Arizona’s DREAM Act Coalition emphasized that the Latino community is placing close attention on Obama’s record on immigration, as well as Gutierrez’ deportation proceeding. Garcia cited three other Arizona cases that are being scrutinized. She expects that the Latino electorate will weigh these matters heavily in November.

[Photo by No Borders and Binaries]

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