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The following is a press release distributed after Alfredo’s release. View pictures and videos from today here.
US Attorney David J. Hickton Continues to Use Limited Dept. Resources to Prosecute 24-Year Ohio Resident and Father of Two U.S. Citizens
After a hard fought public campaign to reunite him with his U.S. citizen children, 24-year Ohio resident Jose Alfredo Ramos Gallegos received a sign of hope today. He was allowed to return home to his family, at least temporarily, with an ankle monitor and criminal “re-entry” charges from the U.S. Department of Justice still pending. Alfredo was also granted a one year “stay of removal” by ICE.
During Alfredo’s initial court appearance today, the judge and prosecutor agreed to let him continue to fight his re-entry charge from outside of jail, assuming he follows through on all of his scheduled court appearances. At first, it appeared that Alfredo would be released from federal criminal custody and then quickly absorbed into the “civil” deportation and detention system. ICE had placed a hold on Alfredo. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, word came that he had been granted a one-year stay of deportation by ICE and could return to his family in a matter of hours.
One hundred and fifty people, including Alfredo’s 2 children and stepson, traveled from northeast Ohio to Erie, PA to rally outside during his hearing and show their support. They chanted and held signs asking, “what did Alfredo do bad?” Inside the courtroom, the calls for relief came through loud and clear. In addition, more than 5000 people also took action online, emailing U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton and calling on him to stop this cruel prosecution of a father and worker.
Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA Ohio and the leader of this community effort, said:
We are truly gratified that the authorities allowed Alfredo to return to him and family in Painesville where he belongs. However, we’re deeply troubled by the pending felony charge and that the government continues to pursue this course of action against alfredo and his family, despite his excellent record of 24 years in this country as a hard-working immigrant and father. We are going to continue to fight this charge and fight the injustice of this whole system not only to help Alrfredo but to help others who are in the same situation.
While the stay of deportation and release from detention is welcome news, there’s still a battle left to fight. Despite limited department resources, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton continues to prosecute Alfredo for “illegal re-entry,” costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Attorney David Leopold, Alfredo’s immigration lawyer, said:
Clearly, ICE took a look at the equities in this case, saw that this man has been here for two decades, paid his taxes, raised children who are U.S. citizens, and has been a provider for an American family. ICE did the right thing by immediately granting him a one year stay of removal. I only wish that the same wisdom would prevail within the Department of Justice. Today, while we saw a bit of justice with Alfredo standing arm-in-arm with his loving children, his nightmare continues. He is still facing a felony prosecution for an alleged immigration offense nearly 15 years old and months, or even years, in a federal prison. The Department of Justice should use its limited resources to go after people who would do your communities harm, not people who are hard-working aspiring citizens.
Alfredo was referred to the Border Patrol after Mentor, OH police stopped a car he was riding in on February 8, 2014. He has lived in the U.S. for 24 years, since he was 16, and deported nearly 14 years ago. His U.S. citizen ex-wife, who was nine months pregnant with their first child at the time, urged him to return. Since then, Alfredo has lived peacefully in the U.S., taking care of his family, with no arrests or other problems.
Illegal re-entry cases are up 76% under the Obama Administration – amounting to an assembly line to turn undocumented immigrants into convicted felons. An immigrant without a prior criminal record, who has just returned to the country to care for his family, is faced with a terrible choice: either he can plead guilty and serve a light sentence (0-6 months) but become a “criminal alien,” a target for future deportation, and likely ineligible for future legal immigration status; or he can try to fight the case, which involves remaining in jail for several months while waiting for a trial, and risking a guilty verdict anyway.