Tales Told Too Often: Deportation

As a melting pot, the United States welcomes immigrants from other lands and cultures to join the American experience. Unfortunately, this has not been the case at times in the past decade.

Consider these recent stories:

  • A 54-year-old grandmother who had lived in the United States for 30 years was detained during an immigration sweep in 2011. Held in a county jail in California for almost two years, she was shackled and clad in an orange jumpsuit for her immigration hearing in San Francisco in August 2013. According to Public Radio International (PRI), she had escaped her homeland in El Salvador after suffering grinding poverty, war and sexual abuse.
  • In Stockton, Calif., Karla Gaerlan ended up being arrested for her status as an illegal alien when police responded to a domestic dispute call at her home with her husband, Army veteran Thad Schmierer. Gaerlan was held for eight days and says she was coerced by immigration officials to sign documentation terminating her right to a green card and agreeing to voluntarily return to the Philippines.
  • Fredy Avellanda’s family arrived from Mexico to settle in Pahokee, Fla., when he was 10. Fredy became an altar boy and graduated from high school with honors. Unable to attend college without a Social Security number, Avellaneda was picked up with other undocumented workers while traveling to his job to clean swampland.

The people in these narratives are typical. Their lives and families are permanently altered by immigration policies that no longer make sense. Our office represents clients seeking to immigrate — and avoid deportation.

The judge returned Mejia to detention. She is considered a flight risk, partly because she has been arrested for petty theft in the past, but also for her unwillingness to give up her quest to stay in the U.S. For Gaerlan, U.S. immigration exercised prosecutorial discretion, allowing her to stay in this country and apply for legal status. Avellaneda’s counsel is hoping his client will be granted bond soon.

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