Dear Assistant Secretary Morton:
Your assumption of the reins at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this year has brought optimism. You seem to bring a much needed fresh perspective to the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security.In particular your observation that since immigration law is largely civil its enforcement should reflect its civil nature gives many hope that brighter days lay ahead.In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform there is hope that with the change in leadership at DHS common sense and humane enforcement priorities will prevail.
But yesterday ICE refused to halt the deportation of Sam Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez who have lived in the U.S.since 1992 after fleeing from Guatemalawith their infant son.If ever there was a case that cried out for executive intervention to stop a deportation, this was it. Here is how the San Francisco Chronicle described the case in an editorial published yesterday morning:
Sam Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez offer a case study on why this nation needs immigration reform. They have lived and worked in theUnited Statessince they fledGuatemalawith an infant son in 1992. They saved up enough money to buy a house inNovatoseveral years ago. Neither Sam and Elida nor their children – two of whom were born in theUnited States- has been in even a whiff of trouble.
Yet today the couple will be escorted on a plane for deportation toGuatemala. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent notice Tuesday that their appeals had been exhausted. They will leave with their 4-year-old daughter, Dulce, aU.S.citizen by birthright. They will leave behind their 13-year-old daughter Helen, also a citizen and thriving in high school, along with their 18-year-old son, Gilbert, who is fighting deportation proceedings of his own.
In the cruelest twist of all, the family came on the radar of immigration officials only because of mistaken identity: On March 7, 2007, armed federal officers stormed into their house looking for a suspect who was neither a relative nor acquaintance. TheU.S.government nonetheless initiated deportation proceedings against the three noncitizens in the family.
An estimated 12 million residents of theUnited Stateshave come here illegally. For those who work and avoid trouble, enforcement is just a game of chance. Unfortunately, two hard-workingNovatoparents are paying the price for an immigration policy that is not aligned with reality or the nation’s best interest.
Assistant Secretary Morton, previous ICE policy directives require ICE to prioritize enforcement, placing national security and public safety at the top of the list. These directives gave you ample power to keep the Mejia-Reyes family together.
But you did not.
So, tell me, is our country more safe now that Sam Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez have been deported?Are our citizens better protected?Have ICE enforcement priorities been served?
I, for one, am at a loss to understand what policy objective was met by the removal of two honest, hard working people. What grand national interest has been served by the destruction of yet another family?
Everyone agrees our immigration system is badly broken.That is why until Congress rolls up its sleeves and gets to the hard work of fixing it, we need people like you, who are charged with enforcing the law, to enforce it in a manner which protects the nation and gives folks like Sam Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez, who are sadly caught in the web of immigration dysfunction, a fighting chance to eventually earn their place in the American Dream.