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DHS Denies Prosecutorial Discretion, Deports Hard-Working Father of Four

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jaime deportationLink to audio of Jaime’s wife, Jennifer Martinez’ plea to DHS to let him stay, here.

This morning, despite pleas from his wife, children and dozens of community members from Manitowoc, WI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported Jaime Martinez Espinal, leaving his US citizen wife, Jennifer, and their four children, in a state of financial and emotional ruin.  Mr. Martinez’s case is a painful example of the disconnect between a man who DHS defines as “ a law enforcement priority” and a father who is viewed by his community as valuable member and cherished husband and father.

Jaime Martinez isn’t perfect. But, the violations that made Mr. Martinez such a priority to DHS were the two times he re-entered the United States to return to his family after being deported. According to DHS, this makes Mr. Martinez and “egregious immigration violator,” a top priority.  To his community this makes him no different from the millions of other undocumented immigrants who find themselves caught in the tangled web of America’s broken immigration system.

However, the community couldn’t disagree with ICE more.  To them, Jaime was a hardworking father of 4 who regularly put in 70 hours a week at a local restaurant to support his family. Many Manitowoc residents know Jaime best from his frequent visits to volunteer the local YMCA.  A Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter op-ed today by  Dr. Daniel Burbach, board-certified clinical psychologist and fellow YMCA member, highlights some of the community support behind him.  Dr, Burbach writes, “As a matter of practicality, absolutely nothing will be gained by the deportation of my friend, Jaime. He has assimilated. He represents absolutely no threat to our community or homeland security. He is not a flight risk. Five U.S. citizens are completely dependent upon him, his wife and children. We have come too far as a nation to condone the tearing apart of families in situations of this sort.”

It’s cases like this that are the true test of Obama’s new prosecutorial discretion policy. The premise of discretion is that no one factor should be determinative, and that any negative components of an individual’s case should be weighed against their equities. And, Jaime Martinez’ equities could not be stronger: fourteen years in the country, 10 years working at the same job, tremendous support from the community, not to mention his wife and children.

Said Jaime’s wife, Jennifer Martinez, “my heart is breaking and I don’t know how to put the pieces together.  My husband was an incredible man, a loving father, and one of the kindest people I know.  All he wanted was to be able to love and support his family, just as he always has.  I can’t imagine anything worse as a parent than watching your kids face growing up without a father.  I’m just waiting to wake up from this terrible nightmare.”

Since the news of Jaime’s detainment, supporters have been rallying for officials to exercise prosecutorial discretion and have organized a change.org petition to help draw broad attention to Jaime’s case.  Last week, family members and the Manitowoc community held a prayer vigil to pray for Jaime’s safe return back to his family.