ICE resumes deporting unsuspecting immigrants during street checks

By Kate Morrissey, The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — When Eduardo Sanchez showed up one recent morning for a check-in with immigration officials in downtown San Diego, he assumed it would be like every other he’s had since 2017, when agents targeted him and his brothers-in-law for being undocumented.

He thought they would ask him if his address or phone number had changed and make sure he still complied with their demands. They would check the status of his immigration file. Then he would return home to Linda Vista to be with his wife and two children.

But on Monday, July 11, Sanchez showed up for his check-in and within hours found himself deported to Tijuana.

It was about five days after a federal appeals court overturned Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines prioritizing deportations based on significant criminal history or national security concerns.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Sanchez, who has no criminal record, said in Spanish. His voice was full of emotion as he recalled the times he had spent in an ICE holding cell awaiting deportation. “I thought a lot about how they were going to separate me from my family. It happened so suddenly.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment.

ICE has not announced any policy changes regarding the deportations it will carry out, but according to immigration lawyers, deporting someone like Sanchez is a clean break from previous policy.

Sanchez, 39, had a pending motion to reopen his case based on things that happened after his original case was decided. Because of this pending motion, his lawyer was shocked that ICE chose to deport him.

Sanchez said two other men in situations similar to his were deported with him, and immigration attorneys across the country, including in non-border states such as Oklahoma, have begun to hear customers after ICE unexpectedly expelled them from the United States.

The change could impact hundreds of thousands of people who have been issued removal orders by an immigration judge – the orders that allow ICE to deport them – but who are still looking for other options to stay. permanently in the United States.

No guidance

Under the Trump administration, people who had removal orders were often terrified of going to their next ICE taping.

That’s because the administration told ICE officers to deport anyone they could deport. Some people chose to take refuge in churches instead of showing up for their check-ins. Others made hail-marie attempts to garner public support in the press. Many ended up being deported.

When President Joe Biden took office, he did so with a promise to focus on deportations based on criminal history.

In September 2021, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave ICE direction on who its agents should prioritize for deportation — people whom officials considered national security threats. or public security as well as those who have recently entered the country without permission.

But the states of Louisiana and Texas sued, and a federal judge blocked Mayorkas’ memo. This decision was upheld in early July by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A notice on the ICE website ensures the agency abides by the ruling.

“Until further notice, ICE will not enforce or rely on Mayorkas’ memorandum in any way,” the notice reads.

The Biden administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which left the lower court’s decision in place for now, but agreed to hear arguments in the case later this year. The case, meanwhile, has left ICE officers with little guidance as to who to deport.

“It kind of led to this disarray where you think of ICE as a whole nationwide body, but it’s like a chicken with its head cut off right now,” the lawyer said. Miami-based immigration, Mark Prada. “I think they’re treating it like an open season, and they’re kicking people out as they want now.”

In the past, said Oklahoma-based immigration attorney Lorena Rivas, ICE typically informed people who checked in with them that they would be deported at a later date so they had the time to get their affairs in order.

She has had a client kicked out without notice in recent weeks and has also heard from other lawyers about such cases.

life in california

Sanchez came to the United States with his wife Patricia Osorio and several family members in 2000. The couple were still teenagers – and minors – when they arrived.

Making ends meet with the work they could find as undocumented immigrants was difficult, but they succeeded, coming of age and shaping their lives together. They had a son, Cristopher, who is now 18 and finishing high school.

“My life is in California,” Sanchez said. “There, I learned to work, to be a father.”

Sanchez worked for a time with his brothers-in-law at a car wash. Eventually he found a job painting cars.

Then came the Trump administration. Fall 2017 was a busy time for the ICE San Diego field office. Its agents arrested more than 1,600 immigrants with no criminal history from October to December of the same year – more than anywhere else in the country.

Sanchez was among them.

One day in November 2017, while driving to work with Osorio, ICE officers stopped his car. He received an immigration court appearance notice and an ankle monitor, but was allowed to stay with his family while he awaits his case rather than spend time in immigration detention. He was required to report periodically to ICE and follow their rules to monitor his whereabouts.

ICE picked up Osorio’s brothers around the same time, Osorio said. One recognized the photo ICE had of him as coming from his driver’s license – all three had obtained permits after California passed AB60, which created a special driver’s license for undocumented immigrants.

They have since questioned whether those licenses were the reason the three men ended up as targets.

Sanchez showed up at his tapings, and in immigration court he applied for a program called reversal of removal. This program allows long-time residents to apply for permission to stay if their removal would cause extreme and unusual hardship to a US citizen, in the case of Sanchez, his child. The legal standard, which requires the immigrant to demonstrate hardship beyond the typical hardship caused by deportation, is difficult to meet.

Sanchez lost and was sent off in 2019. He appealed.

This appeal was rejected by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2021.

During this time, her second son, Mateo, was born. And Sanchez has been diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a condition that could lead to heart failure if he is unable to get the proper medication.

On top of that, a cartel now controls the area Sanchez is from in Mexico. After a family member refused to join, the cartel fired on the family home, and much of Sanchez’s extended family has since fled to seek asylum in the United States.

With the help of a new attorney, Sanchez filed a motion to reopen his case due to these changed circumstances. The motion argues that an immigration judge should rehear his annulment case because of his illness and the emotional hardship it would cause his children if he cannot get the care he needs to treat him for his stay in Mexico. He also argues that he should be allowed to seek asylum, which he never did, based on how his family was driven out by the cartel.

The application has been pending since September 2021.

Ginger Jacobs, an attorney with the firm representing Sanchez, said local immigration attorneys had agreed with ICE’s San Diego field office that people like Sanchez would not be deported.

When he was taken into custody while checking in, his company was not informed, she said. Sanchez said he was allowed to call his wife but not his lawyer. By the time Osorio got in touch with Jacobs’ office and an attorney rushed to file a request for a stay of eviction, it was too late.

“It was so quick. It doesn’t feel fair to me,” Osorio said in Spanish. “We know what happened, that they took it and everything. But that, how it happened, I still can’t put it in my head.

Sanchez believes the speed of his expulsion was intentional to prevent anyone from arresting him.

“It’s brand new,” Jacobs said. “That wasn’t supposed to happen under a Biden administration, and maybe not at all under any administration, especially when someone has a motion to reopen based on asylum or case reasons. similar to asylum.”

In a state of shock

The ramifications for Sanchez and others like him could be significant. Many ways of trying to obtain permission to remain in the United States, including those he intended to seek when reopening his case, require the applicant to be on American soil.

Jacobs and his team try to find a way for Sanchez to return to his family and continue to fight his case. For now, Sanchez still hopes he can move back to the Linda Vista townhouse his family rents.

Mateo is now 2 years old. When the boy was born, Sanchez organized his work schedule so he could spend the mornings together. The boy has been glued to him ever since, waiting for him to come home from work and following him around the house.

Sanchez and Osorio did not tell Mateo that his father was expelled. He frequently asks for Sanchez and Osorio tells him that Sanchez is at work.

Cristopher, the eldest son, doesn’t talk much about what happened to his family, but it clearly left its mark. When someone knocks on the door of the family home, Christophe rushes to the window, his face full of worry, to see who it is before opening the door.

He is considering dropping out of school to help his mother pay the rent. She works part-time cleaning houses, but Sanchez was the main breadwinner.

Sanchez has taken refuge at least temporarily with a friend from work who lives in Tijuana. Sanchez was kicked out with no more than $20 in his pocket and managed to call his friend while he was still close enough to the border to get cell service.

He barely leaves the house. He’s afraid that even in Tijuana the cartel will notice him and come after him.

“I’m still processing,” Sanchez said, sitting on the front porch of his friend’s house. ” I can not sleep. I do not want to eat. It’s stressful to be in this situation.

He spends most of his time watching television and trying not to think. At night, he inflates an air mattress in a guest bedroom that his friend has used as storage.

Osorio is still in shock. Mateo’s 3rd birthday arrives in September. She knows the boy will be expecting a cake, a party. But she no longer knows if it’s financially — or emotionally — possible.

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