An Ohio father of three American citizens was deported today. Needless to say, his life as well as the lives of numerous American citizens have been thrown into a tailspin.
In November, when DHS Secretary Johnson announced new deportation guidance, we applauded. It seemed as though the Administration was injecting some common sense into what has been a brutal and highly destructive deportation machine. The guidance said that ICE agents were to look at the whole person, and balance both the pros and cons, before carrying out a deportation. Instead the Detroit Field Office, overseen by Rebecca Adducci, is using the DHS memo as a “checklist” to rubber stamp deportations.
Jose Lizandro Escobar-Vera (“Lizandro”) is a loving father to three U.S. citizen children (including his stepson, who is 15, and has already survived the trauma of his biological father’s deportation). He lived in the United States for fifteen years.
Lizandro was a valued worker and well-regarded member of the Norwalk, Ohio community.
Up until last week, when he was detained by ICE, Lizandro was also the caretaker of three elderly U.S. citizens—his neighbors—who relied on Lizandro for help with their medical care, shopping, meals, and take care of their homes. These elderly citizens are in a precarious state, health-wise, and Lizandro stepped in twelve years ago to care for them. They consider him the “son of their heart,” and posted his $5000 bond. They call him Eric.
Lizandro’s attorney Andy Bramante, HOLA Ohio Executive Director Veronica Dahlberg, and Lizandro’s neighbors tried to make ICE see that he plays an indispensable role in their lives, and is a good person who deserves a deportation reprieve. But the government refused to listen or see.
This decision was made by the Detroit Field Office, but the buck stops with ICE headquarters in DC, Director Sarah Saldana, and ultimately DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. They set the tone and rules for how their November 2014 guidance is to be interpreted. If they don’t like the rubber stamp approach that Detroit is taking, it’s their job to step in.
For now, their silence is destroying lives: that of Lizandro and his partner; their three U.S. citizen children who have to grapple now with the emotional consequences of losing a parent to deportation; and their neighbors whose health and well-being are in jeopardy.
Following Lizandro’s deportation, HOLA Ohio Executive Director Veronica Dahlberg asked: “Why? Why does ICE continue to separate Hispanic families? A government agency like ICE ought to know by now how to differentiate between a public safety threat and a Hispanic immigrant family. This has been a continuous problem and we have to question what is behind their callous disregard for our families. We can’t bear to see more children lose their parents.”