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The Faces of Delay: Executive Action Will Come Too Late for Families Facing Deportation

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National Immigration Advocates and Ohio Families Decry Political Gamesmanship, Highlight Real Human Costs of Obama’s Delay

To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.

With President Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the November elections, the hopes of thousands of American families facing deportation were dashed. On a press call today, national, local immigration advocates, legal experts, and family members—including those profiled by Julia Preston of the New York Times today—discussed current Ohio deportation cases in the pipeline and the many good people and families who simply don’t have two months to wait for action on immigration.

As Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, explained:

As an advocate working with Latino communities in the small towns of northern Ohio, I can tell you that the lack of action on immigration from both Congress and the administration has created a disaster with a very real and devastating human toll, particularly on American children who are being impacted by the loss of a parent by the tens of thousands. We are in a state of emergency.

The situation in Ohio has captured national attention in the past.  The cases outlined on today’s call provide a representative sampling of what other communities are experiencing all across the nation as both Congress and the President fail to act.

David Leopold, Ohio based immigration attorney and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), is currently representing Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez—husband to a U.S. citizen and primary caretaker to his stepson, Juan, who has cerebral palsy.  After being granted a one-year stay of removal in 2013, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detroit Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci denied Pedro’s recent request to renew his stay despite the fact that no equities in his case have changed (ready more about Pedro and his family in today’s New York Times or on America’s Voice’s website here).

Said Leopold:

ICE’s decision to tear Pedro away from his family is incomprehensible. Not only is it a brazen act of cruelty, it blatantly ignores the enforcement priorities already put in place by the President.  ICE Detroit seems to have missed the memo which says they are supposed to remove violent criminals and security risks, not people like Pedro Hernandez or Luis Nicassio Padilla.  The President’s postponement of action on deportations until later this year would be less worrisome if ICE consistently adhered to the Administration’s enforcement priorities.  Truth be told, if ICE field offices actually followed the prosecutorial discretion directives that Obama has already issued, millions of undocumented immigrants would be granted temporary reprieves from deportation now.  Yet, unfortunately that is not the case. We are forced to fight tooth and nail for each reprieve—even in cases like Pedro Hernandez’s where deportation directly threatens the health and well-being of a severely disabled US citizen.

Said Pedro’s wife, Seleste WisniewskiHernandez:

I really need the government to have mercy on my family and other families feeling this pain.  I have a lot of physical pain within my body, but there’s no pain deeper than leaving my soul mate and the glue to our family behind.  I can’t imagine life without Pedro.  This is a living nightmare.  Let him step up to the plate and let him continue being the good husband and father he’s been.  We can be productive individuals of the United States but only if we’re together.  I cannot do it without Pedro.  It’s just not going to be able to happen.  I’m begging for mercy.

Pedro’s stepdaughter, Stephanie Rodriguez, said:

Breaking apart a family…I don’t think it’s the correct way to do anything.  The whole puzzle that we’ve built over the years is going to fall apart over something that can be fixed right now, but ICE refuses to do so.  Pedro’s the one who helps my brother, who helps me make decisions like whether to join the Marine Corps, the reasons why or why not.  If they deport him, I can’t go and leave my family torn apart.  It’s like I’ve been saying, Mexico doesn’t need him as much as we do.  We’ve been through enough already, and he can’t be replaced.

Fatin Askar is a Columbus, OH based immigration attorney currently representing Marinela Martinez-Magana, who is facing deportation and separation from her long-time partner and three U.S. citizen kids.  After trying to pay a traffic ticket, ICE whisked her away in handcuffs and issued an immediate deportation order, demanding that she leave the country by the end of the month (read more about her story at NBC 4 i here).

Said Askar on today’s call:

Every day immigration reform is stalled means a thousand more a day are being deported, including individuals like Marinela who would have qualified for protection under executive action, but because she is being forced to leave the US and her 3 young children by next month she will not have the opportunity to do so.

“Separation will be really hard for us,” added Neri Diaz, Marinela’s longtime partner and father to their three U.S. citizen kids. “I just want the president to keep families together. We’re really not criminal people. We just want to raise our kids.”

Concluded, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

These are just a few examples of the types of heartbreaking cases we’re seeing in Ohio and across the country.  ICE agents are using tortured definitions of ‘enforcement priorities’ to ensnare peaceful, productive residents.  Pedro and Marinela are not priorities for deportation, they’re priorities for their families.  They can’t afford to wait two months for the elections to be over.  They need the Administration to act now.

To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.