Documentary 1: El Gringo Schindler (2015) – A Ralph Isenberg Production

The dual story of the technical side of the immigration system as carried out in Dallas TX and the harsh consequences it has on families and the work of a community based immigration organization that has no attorney on staff nor is accredited. The documentary explores the work of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) and how they succeed where others fail.

Not only did my house flood, but so did the matters at ICIE

Ralph Isenberg
Ralph Isenberg

ICIE Founder Ralph Isenberg provides this ICIE update.

Most everyone heard about the rains we had in Dallas, but few knew that my home flooded. Even fewer people knew that the matters we handle at ICIE also flooded to a “flood stage” level. Now there may have been enough water from rain for me to now believe in “global warming” and start building an “ark,” but I am at a loss to explain what was going on at the office. While an act of nature is very time consuming to clean up and repair from, such acts pale to the amount of work necessary to clean up a mankind disaster. In particular, those disasters that split families apart have the potential to cause more harm than any flood that might hit Dallas.

As an activist, the most important thing I do is clean up after others. I never permit my work to be consistent nor will I ever permit myself to join the system. I know we are doing a good job at ICIE when everyone in the system is complaining except those we help. To act any differently only wastes time and guarantees that ICIE will start to accept losing more matters on a regular basis. As Founder, I will not permit this to happen.

ICIE was founded by me because I needed a “resort of last hope” to help me with immigration problems I was having, and there were none to help. I ended up going it alone and learned some valuable lessons about how cruel the system can be. I swore that if I ever resolved my problems, I would try and help others. Thus, ICIE was born.

As an organization, I see us always operating on the “edge of the cliff.” I am certain that by taking risks, ICIE protects those we help. As a “resort of last hope,” ICIE also tries to spare those we help the pain that I felt. At ICIE, we will never wear any safety belts, for to become conservative in our ways will mark an end to what we do under United States immigration law (8 CFR 1292.1(a)(3)) as a “reputable individual,” whether the government accepts us not.

An organization like ICIE is under so much pressure, that we must be constantly changing our ways. Most of the changes are not planned and just happen “because.” If we were not open to constant change, ICIE would be ambushed by those that wish to do our organization harm: certain members of the United States Government. Like a laser beam pointed at an airplane, ICIE will only be blinded temporarily, and then we will return to our founding principles.

My concerns for the future of ICIE are not that we be in perfect accord, but rather we must never lose the ability to act without double-checking everything we do. Stated differently, I am afraid the organization has gained too much knowledge of what we are doing. I prefer ICIE lack certain knowledge so we seek our own solutions, and then act accordingly, rather than just implement decisions we know are 100% lawful. I submit this approach is true “advocacy” and we only take on “hopeless matters” because we do not have the knowledge to say no. ICIE merely figures that every circumstance has a solution, and we act accordingly.

Frankly, our success record speaks for itself. The matters that we are taking on are getting harder and harder. As ICIE continues to see the abuses of our immigration system hurt more and more people, ICIE realized that we are also fighting to protect the rights of all United States citizens, as our work now is confined to matters which involve “Constitutional Law” and “Extreme Family Separation.” As for those we cannot help, ICIE will never turn anyone away without pointing them in the right direction.

Matters like getting Mr. Diaz returned to the United States before he ends up dead in a ditch in the streets of El Salvador ends up pushing other important matters further back. ICIE must always take our most urgent matters first. For example, I have been ready to a file suit, “prose” against the Dallas “Field Operations Director” (FOD), Simona Flores, for violating my First and Fifth Amendment Rights under the Bills of Rights. The suit will be filed in United States Federal District Court and will show that the Dallas FOD ordered the “retaliatory deportation” of a foreign national named Salomon to Mexico to strike back at me and ICIE. In doing this, I pray the Court appoint a special prosecutor to oversee ICE in Dallas Texas until these charges can be verified, as FOD is not acting alone in her actions. ICIE needs to get Salomon returned to the United States from El Salvador, because the same Dallas FOD approved the deportation of a foreign national, even though ICIE informed ICE that they lacked the proper police and court papers to make a decision on the man’s case. Not only was ICIE correct, but ICIE was able to prove the man was 100% innocent of the charges.

ICIE has another foreign national man that was deported to Mexico after Dallas ICE failed to be “truthful” with ICIE in the handling of this matter. ICIE was not able to get a form filed in time to prevent the deportation, even though ICIE had a new material witness from over two decades ago that would have established the innocence of the foreign national.

ICIE is trying to work with a woman from Palmer, TX to keep her from being deported, because of an ICE program called the “Streamline Initiative” that ICIE considers more like “Alice in Wonderland,” because the initiative violates the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights. ICIE also has numerous matters which involve post-conviction relief. These are very hard matters to handle. Then there are matters like Santos, a woman who made a simple error by not having her paperwork in order when visiting her mother in El Salvador after she had a heart attack. Now, she finds herself separated from her four United States citizen children.

Let us not forget the case of Saad Nabel, and his ongoing need to return to the United States with full status. His matter was the first case ICIE took on, and I would usually say that this is the perfect type of case we take on. For reasons I cannot explain, ICIE has not gotten to work on this matter in earnest.

The matter of Betty Lopez is another matter that has taken far too long. The husband of Betty, Jose Lopez, has understandably pulled the case from ICIE. I want the entire family to know that I personally want to apologize to the entire family for failing to get done what I said I would. I am not one to give my word and then come up empty handed. The responsibility of this failure is 100% mine and I especially hope the children of Betty and Jose Lopez will forgive me.

ICIE does a great job of “saving one starfish at a time” and it is time ICIE finds a way, once and for all, to expand the public awareness of the hidden side of immigration. ICIE needs to produce more documentaries like “El Gringo Schindler” and get them released with greater speed. ICIE must also work on fast-paced mini-documentaries that can get released with little or no effort to tell an immigration nightmare. The future use of the Spanish-speaking media is a very exciting next step to see evolve at ICIE.

In order to see this and other changes evolve, the organization is going to require new leadership in the ranks. It will perhaps be hardest for me to accept the changes I know must happen, but they are necessary if we are to be a meaningful organization now and into the future. ICIE must become a non-profit or establish foundation status sooner rather than later. Unless ICIE makes these changes, we will become nothing more than a footnote in the history of the “immigration movement.” We have the opportunity to make a real difference and be able to save more than just “one starfish at a time” but instead “thousands of starfish at a time.”

I mentioned my house getting flooded when I opened this update on our state of affairs. Did I mention that I still have a job with partners that depend on me to conduct business? Did I mention that I still have a family that want to see more of Dad? Did I mention my daughter is getting married in China next month, and the entire family is returning to China to be at the wedding? Not sure any flood water is going to wash me away, for I appear to be weighed down with enough that no amount of water is going to wash me down river.

ICE Director Saldana faces protests at Dallas meeting

saldana_sm_0An appearance by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldana at a Dallas community meeting descended into chaos Wednesday after immigration activists angrily confronted her over her agency’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.

According to a report in The Dallas Morning News, Saldana, a former United States Attorney for North Texas, appeared with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez at a community forum at El Centro College in downtown Dallas Wednesday night (May 20). After a few prepared remarks, Saldana opened the floor to questions, and she was immediately besieged by local activists upset over ICE policies toward undocumented immigrants.

During her prepared remarks, Saldana insisted ICE was only actively working to deport the “worst of the worst” undocumented or illegal immigrants, setting their priority on those who commit criminal offenses. The facts, however, tell a different story: most immigrants detained and deported are members of families (often of U.S. citizens) with no serious crimes. Parents are routinely deported, leaving children behind. It is this reality that immigration activists pointed out to Saldana, and demanded answers.

Activist Carlos Quintanilla demanded ICE stop deportations of immigrants with no criminal record. Danny Cendejas of the Texas Organizing Project said he has repeatedly asked Sheriff Valdez for a meeting to discuss her policy on immigration “holds” for ICE. When members of the audience did not get satisfying answers, they became agitated, and tempers flared. Some physically turned their backs on Saldana and Valdez, saying ICE and Dallas County Sheriffs had turned their backs on them. After chants of “ICE out of Dallas” filled the room, both Sheriff Valdez and Director Saldana left the room abruptly, ending the meeting.

Ralph Isenberg of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment may not agree with ICE’s tactics, but he found the response by the crowd at the meeting out-of-line. “I and my organization would never show that kind of disrespect to an elected official (Valdez). It is rude to turn your back like that. It is embarrassing to the sheriff. Regardless of what you think of Saldana, she did a good job as assistant U.S. Attorney,” he said. “The real question has to be why did Sheriff Valdez arrange this meeting with the ICE director in the first place. In the past, Sheriff Valdez has distanced herself from ICE. Why the change now? Was this about a possible future appointment to DHS?”

Isenberg thinks the protests were more about grandstanding than facilitating change. “The protesters should have known what the ICE director was going to say. We know policies aren’t being followed. It starts in DC and filters down to field offices. The Dallas field office is most dangerous office for foreign nationals in the United States. There is no respect by agents for directives that come from the ICE director or DHS. Washington believes they have these policies in effect, but they lack the proper oversight to ensure they are followed. We have to fight Dallas ICE to keep families together every day, even when the foreign national has committed no serious crime. What have they (the protesters) done to keep families together? What have they accomplished?

“If Director Saldana really wanted to help, instead of a community meeting, she should have agreed to sit down with me and other local immigration advocates to discuss our concerns. If Director Saldana had met with me for just 30 minutes, I would have shown her countless cases in which Dallas ICE Director Simona Flores is not following policy. Ms. Flores has a standing order if I show up at Dallas ICE headquarters, that federal police are called and I am threatened with a charge of trespassing, even though I am on public property. I make it clear that I am not an attorney or accredited, but there is nothing in ICE policy that prevents me from talking with an individual, especially when the foreign national’s family requests it.

“Director Saldana should sit down with me and Ms. Flores and find a way that we can work together. We go to ICE when we find a problem with Constitutional law or extreme family separation with a foreign national’s case. They are cases where no lawyer or organization will help them, and we usually win. Our record speaks for itself.”

UPDATE: Deportation delayed for father of US citizen children facing his last night in America

Elmer Marroquin and his family
Elmer Marroquin and his family

UPDATE (5/15/2015): Thanks to the fantastic efforts of the ICIE staff, a “Motion to Reopen” was filed with ICE in time to stop the deportation of Elmer Marroquin. Once ICE officials accepted the paperwork on Wednesday evening, a stay of deportation was automatically issued. We will continue to keep you informed of developments as ICIE staff work to keep the Marroquin family together.

ORIGINAL POST (5/13/2015): As we post this update, Elmer Marroquin could be spending his last night in America. Tomorrow, the father to two U.S. citizen children will be deported and separated from his family, and our government hasn’t even provided a reason why.

We’ve profiled the plight of the Marroquin family before (you can click here to read our stories about them), and, in recent days, it looked as if life for the family was finally looking up. Elmer and his wife had been separated from their children in El Salvador for years, until their daughter was allowed into the country on humanitarian grounds last year. In recent weeks, the Marroquins’ son was allowed to come to America, finally escaping the drug cartels and gangs that had threatened his life and brought violence to his neighborhood. The family was finally united, until Dallas ICE chief Simona Flores decided it was time for Elmer to leave the country, and ordered him on a plane flight back to El Salvador tomorrow (May 14).

Flores has been highly criticized for leading a ICE branch that rejects I-246 requests at a high rate, with no explanation. An I-246 is a government form requesting a stay of deportation, which is often granted to undocumented immigrants with extenuating circumstances, including facing separation from U.S. citizen family members or situations in which an immigrant has committed a minor offense. ICE officials are supposed to consider each I-246 and respond accordingly, but Flores simply issues a form letter denying a stay of deportation, with no explanation of why.

Marroquin certainly qualifies as an immigrant with extenuating circumstances. He is the breadwinner of his newly-reunited family. Two of his children are U.S. citizens, and the other two (who traveled from El Salvador) qualify for political asylum under refugee provisions for immigrants. The family’s political activism against corrupt government officials in El Salvador put Elmer at risk of danger, including torture, should he return. He also qualifies for relief from deportation because he has U.S. citizen family members in the country, and his child has a potentially life-threatening disease. Rather than address these factors, ICE director Flores rejected his I-246 request on May 7 with no explanation, and informed him the government had bought him a plane ticket to leave the country on May 14. That leaves little time to file an appeal, much less prepare to leave his family.

ICE officials contend that Elmer ignored a previous order to leave the country, but the government never bothered to send him the paperwork notifying him of an immigration hearing, in which he could have requested Temporary Protected Status to stay in the U.S. legally. Instead, ICE officials claim they tried to contact him by phone, and when Elmer did not attend the hearing, he was ordered deported in absentia.

His inability to gain legal residency for himself made it nearly impossible to bring his two children in El Salvador to the country legally. They were under the care of a grandmother there until threats of violence against the children forced the family’s hand, and the children were finally reunited with their parents recently, thanks to efforts by ICIE staff.

Ralph Isenberg and the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment have filed an emergency request with Flores to stay his deportation while an appeal is mounted, and Isenberg has also filed a motion to reopen Elmer’s case with the government’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, perhaps Elmer’s last shot at staying in the country.

We will keep you up to date with developments in Elmer’s case.

Ralph Isenberg and ICIE: Saving the world, one family at a time

Ralph Isenberg
Ralph Isenberg

Ralph Isenberg is a successful property manager in Dallas, but he is also a warrior for the rights of immigrants that have fallen victim to our present immigration system. Isenberg, who has no special training in field of immigration, founded the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) after he learned first-hand of the destructive nature of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) tactics and their total disregard for civil and human rights. “This agency, for the most part, is made up of FBI want-to-be types that are rejects because they act like thugs and bullies.” Isenberg said. “ICE agents that want to do well are clearly in the minority.” Isenberg points to the fact that ICE has more government watchdog agencies keeping an eye on ICE than any other law enforcement agency in the United States Government.

Isenberg is a first-generation American whose family came to the United States from Nazi Germany. The war in Europe resulted in the Isenbergs losing two-thirds of their family at the hands of Hitler. Isenberg’s parents made certain he was raised with a deep appreciation for the opportunities the United States gave new immigrants. His father earned a PHD and was a full professor teaching Organic Chemistry while his mother, an RN, headed a student health care program at university of over 20,000 students.

Isenberg took a keen interest in politics at a very young age after meeting Senator John F. Kennedy when he was running for president. During this time he also met several other well-known political types and civil rights leaders.

It was only natural that Isenberg would want to get involved in helping those with immigration problems, after his own family ran into what he describes as the “wrath of ICE.” Isenberg says, “There is no way I will ever forgive the United States for what they did to my family and the only fitting punishment is that I spend the rest of my life on the attack saving others.”

ICIE was founded to help Isenberg implement the principle that action, not inaction, will always be taken when ICIE finds a matter in which Constitutional law or “extreme family separation” is an issue to a foreign national. The organization does not charge a person it helps, no matter how much work is required. “We are a ‘resort of last hope,” Isenberg says. “ICIE is anything but conventional. We will do whatever we must to keep a family together. That is proven by the fact that ICIE has only had two setbacks in several hundred matters, involving thousands of foreign nationals and nationals. Losing a matter is not an option when you are dealing with a human life,” Isenberg points out.

The stated mission of ICIE is “to challenge our society to be more accepting of foreign nationals that have settled in the United States, whose presence has made them contributing members of our society and deserving of being Americans. When harm comes to these deserving foreign nationals, ICIE will engage those persons, whether it involves private or government concerns. The major tools used by ICIE to defend foreign nationals are the Constitution of the United States, the doctrine of extreme family separation and humanitarian concerns. ICIE will never permit simple prejudice to be a framework for resolution.”

Over the years, Isenberg and the staff at ICIE take on matters that most legal types run from. It is a daunting task, and Isenberg often finds his efforts thwarted by ICE agents who violate the civil rights of the foreign nationals he is trying to help. Through all the victories and struggles, Isenberg points out that it is always about helping one life, and one family, at a time. “I always tell folks about the story of the starfish,” he said. “A father and his child were walking along the beach and came across hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore. The child began picking up the starfish one at a time and putting them back in the ocean. That father told the child; there’s no point in doing this. There are too many starfish to throw back in the ocean. You can’t help them. It won’t make a difference. The child looked up at the father, holding up a starfish, and said, “it will make a difference for this one.” That describes ICIE perfectly.

“We at ICIE can’t help everyone; but to the person or family we do get to save, it makes a world of difference. We get to save one starfish at a time,” he said.

Sylvia Marroquin tells her story at Dallas City Hall

Ralph Isenberg and the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) recently held a press conference at Dallas City Hall so that Sylvia Marroquin could tell her story of being one of the refugee border kids. We have included video of the event here. Because audio of the translation is difficult to hear, a transcript of Sylvia’s statement, in English, is included below. 
Sylvia Marroquin escaped the violence in El Salvador in hopes of reuniting with her parents in Dallas, who came here for work but had to leave her and her brother behind with an ailing grandmother. When violence in her neighborhood and school threatened her safety, her desperate parents had to pay a smuggler (called a coyote) to bring her to the United States. They could not afford to bring both children, so her younger brother stayed behind. 
The smuggler who was supposed to escort Sylvia ended up attacking her, and she barely made it to the United States alive. Even though she is now reunited with her parents, she is still in danger, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants to send her back to El Salvador, and is also trying to deport her father, who came here legally under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a special designation given to immigrants from violent and dangerous foreign countries. His TPS was not renewed by ICE, even though the violence in El Salvador has gotten worse.
Ralph Isenberg, who appears at the beginning of the video, is working hard to keep this family together in the U.S., and is trying to convince ICE to allow him to bring Sylvia’s younger brother here, who is still in danger in El Salvador.

Here is an English transcript of Sylvia’s statement. It may differ slightly from the translation you may hear, as we included the statement as Sylvia originally wrote it.
“My name is Silvia Marroquin and I’m here today to tell you of my experiences. I’m from the country of El Salvador and before I go any further I want to first thank the agents at the border that protected me after the coyotes brought me all the way from El Salvador to the United States. I also want to thank the people in Chicago, Illinois that worked with me so that in a short time, a month in a half, I was reunited with my family here in Dallas, Texas.
“The most important message that I will tell you today is to ask and beg on behalf of my family that the government of the United States find a way to bring my 10 year old brother, Alexis, here to the United States, here to Dallas immediately.
“There is no more family in El Salvador for him, he stays with my grandma, who is very sick right now. They live in a shed, a tin shed, behind a house and he goes and begs on the street for food since his school closed, two months ago. Two months ago, my brother’s school bus driver was getting off the bus and shot to death in front of him. The next day the school closed and it’s not been open since.
“I also have known this sort of violence because last year in March my math school teacher was murdered in the same way like the school bus driver. You have no idea how scary it is to live in a country where the gangs will shoot children.
“My father and mother had a very difficult decision to make. They can either bring me or they can bring my brother to the United States. They could not bring both of us because the cost was $4,500 dollars per person. My father choose me because I’m a woman and because of my age and he thought it best that I be out of the country the soonest. 
“I left with the coyote from El Salvador and what I did not understand or know was it because I was only 13 I would not be going with the rest of the people, instead we went on a route through Guatemala and Mexico that was much different, much higher, very scary, not much food, not much water, but the worst thing was that I was attacked repeatedly by coyote and others and I will not quickly forget that attack.
“In order for me to make sense of what has happened to me and my family, I will beg this government to immediately allow Mr. Isenberg to go and get my brother. The government of El Salvador knows the situation and has not given him permission to get my brother. 
“I had been through a tremendous amount of pain and hardship. My family has being through a tremendous amount of pain and hardship. And in order for this pain and hardship to have any meaning at all we must be united as a family, and that is something I will ask in the name of God, it is so important.
“One thing I do know, is that we are all Americans. Canada, United States, Mexico, the Centrals, are all part of North America and I should be able to be safe in the Americas, but I do know that now I’m in the United States of America this is where I want to stay, and be able to be free, and get my education.
“I know Mr. Isenberg is not an attorney but I want to become an attorney for him and be able to practice law and help people in the courts where he has so much trouble.
“I thank you for listening to my story and I hope that my story explains to you the hardship that individuals and families go through to come to the United States.”

Grandmother deported after ICE, judge ignore the facts

When our government actively pursues the deportation of a foreign national, most Americans assume it is a felon that poses a threat to public or has been found guilty of breaking federal law. They do not expect that person to be a grandmother married to an American citizen. And yet, that is exactly what happened to Sandra Rodriguez, in a case that immigration advocate Ralph Isenberg calls an outrageous example of government misconduct towards an immigrant.

“Sandra’s case is the most egregious case of misconduct and a violation of due process, more so than any other case that I have ever seen,” Isenberg said.”Unfortunately, foreign nationals receive this type of treatment often.”

Rodriquez is a textbook case of a foreign national that qualifies for an adjustment of residency status, as she meets multiple government standards to stay in the country legally. Rodriquez qualified for a green card because she is married to an American citizen, and after she applied for one, immigration officials assured her she would not be deported until a decision on her application was made. That didn’t matter to Dallas ICE agents, who detained her and deported her in February. She is now homeless in a Mexican border town, wondering why ICE officials in Dallas were so determined to deport her.

A violation of due process
Immigration law and Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) policy has set guidelines under which a foreign national can seek a change in residency status and relief from deportation. Isenberg says Rodriguez was repeatedly denied due process in resolving her immigration status from both the Dallas ICE office and Immigration Judge Dietrich Sims.

Rodriguez’s troubles began when she paid an immigration attorney $7,500 to handle her immigration case. Rather than file an I-130 (a form for foreign national spouses of American citizens to apply for a green card) as he promised, the attorney accepted an offer by ICE officials for Rodriguez to leave the country voluntarily, without her knowledge or consent. When Rodriguez learned what happened, she went to Isenberg for help. Isenberg’s staff filed the I-130 as well as an I-246, a form which would delay Rodriguez’s deportation until her status was determined. ICE officials, however, detained Rodriguez and began deportation proceedings.

The Morton Memo
ICIE staff members informed Dallas ICE officials that Rodriguez met enough criteria set by the Morton Memo to allow her to stay in the country. The 2011 Morton Memo (issued by ICE Director John Morton and detailed here) outlines 19 factors that ICE agents could use to justify using “prosecutorial discretion” with foreign nationals. Prosecutorial discretion allows ICE to release a foreign national from custody and suspend a deportation order. This would prevent families from being needlessly torn apart, especially if the foreign national would likely qualify for legal residency. Of the 19 factors listed in the Morton memo, Rodriguez met 14 of them. “I’ve never had someone meet as many of the qualifications for prosecutorial discretion as Sandra,” Isenberg said. “There was no reason why she should have been detained or deported.”

Among the 14 factors Rodriguez met were being married to a U.S. citizen, having a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment, family ties in the United States, the length of her presence in the country, and the likelihood that she would qualify for legal residency. Even though she made a strong case to stay in the country under the Morton Memo, Dallas ICE officials continued their efforts to deport her.

Rodriguez was transferred to Del Rio as part of the deportation process, and it was only then that Isenberg learned that Rodriguez was being deported because Dallas ICE officials did not believe she was married to an American citizen. In desperation, her husband, Juan Garcia, took his Dallas County marriage license (issued in 2011) to the Dallas ICE office, but officials refused to look at the documents and told him to leave.

“Dallas ICE officials lied to us about Sandra’s case, saying it was not their decision. However, we were told by ICE officials in Del Rio that her deportation order came from the Dallas office because she was not really married to a U.S. citizen,” Isenberg said.

“First of all, it is not Dallas ICE’s responsibility to determine if a marriage is real or a green card marriage,” Isenberg said. “USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) determines that. Anyone who met Sandra and Juan could see they were in love. They were the nicest couple you’ve ever seen.” Sandra now serves as a mother figure to Juan’s three children and four grandchildren, all U.S. citizens. Juan’s extended family of thirty relatives have all accepted Sandra as part of the family.

An immigration judge ignores the facts
In a last-minute effort to stop her deportation, Isenberg filed emergency petitions with Immigration Judge Dietrich Sims, pointing out many of the extenuating circumstances of Rodriguez’s case that required review that ICE had rejected. Isenberg pointed out that Rodriguez should not face deportation while her I-130 application was still in process. She had been hospitalized in January for a serious medical condition which requires ongoing treatment, and ICE policy allows for foreign nationals to stay in the country under such circumstances to receive that medical treatment.

In addition, Isenberg pointed out that Rodriguez was the victim of ineffective counsel. Her original immigration attorney made no effort to get her residency status adjusted, and instead accepted voluntary departure on her behalf without her permission. “Foreign nationals are often victimized by unscrupulous attorneys,” Isenberg said. “She thought he had filed an I-130 on her behalf, but he took her money and did nothing but tell ICE she would leave the country.” In all, Isenberg filed four emergency appeals for Judge Sims to consider.

Rodriguez was not done being a victim. The final insult would come from Judge Sims, who was well aware of the time sensitive nature of the appeals. He denied the appeal to stop the deportation without comment or explanation, and never acknowledged the others. Rather than informing Isenberg of his decision, Sims let his decision sit on his desk for three days, then sent the decision by regular mail. “We gave Judge Sims our phone number and email address in our appeal, so we could be contacted immediately,” Isenberg said. “Instead, he sat on it and then mailed it. By the time we received his decision, Sandra had already been deported. Judge Sims knew by delaying notification, we could not then appeal his decision. It was a cowardly act to avoid further action on this case, and he should be sanctioned for it.”

Judge Sims has recently been the target of criticism and scrutiny over his behavior in court. He was recently removed from hearing cases involving children after accusations of unprofessional behavior against foreign nationals in his court.

In response to Sandra’s treatment, Isenberg has filed complaints with the Department of Justice, citing misconduct by both the Dallas ICE office and Judge Sims, saying Rodriguez’s constitutional right to due process was violated. He is also planning a pro se lawsuit in federal court claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when Dallas ICE officials refused to let him represent foreign nationals as “reputable individual,” a process allowed under immigration law.

“We are drawing a line in the sand with Sandra’s case,” Isenberg said. “If they can ignore the facts of her case and deport her, they can do it to anyone. Her case reminds me of the story about the boy who found hundreds of starfish washed up on a beach, dying. He began picking them up one at a time and returning them to the ocean. His father told him it was useless, that he couldn’t save every starfish. The boy then responded that to the one starfish he could save, it meant everything. To me, Sandra is our starfish. We can’t save everyone, but we are determined to save her.”

Dallas immigration judge had “no concern” for children

The recent announcement that Dallas Immigration Judge Deitrich Sims would no longer hear cases on the juvenile immigration docket was welcome news to local advocates, who often criticized the judge’s handling of cases. Cases involving juveniles on the North Texas docket are now being assigned to a different immigration judge. According to a Dallas immigration advocacy group, Judge Sims routinely showed no concern or remorse for foreign nationals appearing before him, including children. In one case, Sims’ actions may have violated immigration law and nearly resulted in the deportation of an underage girl alone to a dangerous Central American country.

The staff of The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE), a Dallas advocacy group founded by businessman Ralph Isenberg, is very familiar with Judge Sims and his courtroom demeanor. They released a statement this week in response to his removal from the juvenile docket. “ICIE applauds this change, as it is long overdue,” the organization said. Many immigrants that the organization have assisted appeared before the judge, and according to the statement, Sims was often rude to immigrants, often accusing them of lying if he did not believe their testimony. “Sims acts more like a prosecutor than a judge,” the statement said. “ICIE staff have watched him badger foreign nationals. His conduct is downright rude.” Indeed, Sims’ lack of fairness and compassion for the plight of foreign nationals in his courtroom has earned him the nickname “El Diablo” from one immigration attorney, ICIE noted.

Often, Sims makes a practice of treating immigrants more harshly than government prosecutors. According to ICIE, a foreign national they were assisting was being held in detention by ICE and facing deportation. During a hearing before Sims, the judge began berating the foreign national and accusing him of lying. Government prosecutors were agreeable to a $5,000 bond to release him, but Judge Sims, without reason or explanation, raised the bond to $10,000. After ICIE complained about Sims’ behavior, the case was moved to another judge. That judge dismissed the charges against the immigrant, who is now a legal permanent resident on his way to citizenship.

According to the original story by The Dallas Morning News, other immigration attorneys and advocates noted Sims’ harshness and welcomed change. Even more troubling was Judge Sims’ rejection rate of asylum requests, which stood at nearly 84% according to a recent survey of his decisions. The national rate of asylum rejections for immigration judges is 51%.”It basically comes down to this,” an ICIE staffer said. “If you are in his courtroom, you can kiss your butt goodbye.”

Foreign nationals appearing in immigration court are not given legal representation. In those cases, it is imperative the presiding judge take all issues and circumstances into account and ensure the foreign national receives the full consideration of immigration law. ICIE contends that Judge Sims does not give foreign nationals this consideration. They cite the case of Sandra, a Mexican national recently in deportation proceedings before Judge Sims. Sims paid $7,500 to an attorney who failed to fight her deportation on several grounds, and instead told Judge Sims, without her knowledge, that she would voluntarily deport.

When Isenberg and ICIE became involved with her case, he filed two 126-page emergency motions with Judge Sims to stop her deportation as a non-attorney “reputable individual,” a little-known but accepted practice in immigration law. “This woman obviously had a bad attorney,” Isenberg said. “She was married to a United States citizen, had committed no crime, and had not even filed a I-130 (known as a Petition for an Alien Relative, it allows for spouses of U.S. citizens to apply for a visa and stay in the country legally). Even so, she was being deported. She was on a bus to Mexico when we filed the motions and asked for a delay in deportation while her I-130 was processed.” Isenberg noted that Judge Sims only ruled on one of four motions they filed, and by not immediately ruling on all motions and stopping her deportation, Sims made any further decision moot. Even though she was deported, Isenberg continues to work to bring her back to the United States.

In their statement, ICIE states that they have had issues trying to hire attorneys for foreign nationals facing Judge Sims, because most are either reluctant or unwilling to bother appearing before him, because of his aggressive approach. “They are afraid of him, because he takes such a strict approach,” ICIE noted.

ICIE says the most egregious ruling by Judge Sims came in a case involving a 14-year-old girl whom Judge Sims tried to deport to Honduras. “ICIE saw their first taste of Judge Sims over two years ago,” the statement said. “We received a call from a school counselor from a small town in the Texas panhandle where this girl lived. She was in deportation proceedings and Judge Sims offered her voluntary departure to her home country of Honduras, without even checking to see if any family were there to take her in. She accepted and the school actually raised money to pay for her plane ticket to Honduras. Her parents were not in deportation proceedings and were in the United States, and yet he granted her voluntary departure. Sims had no authority to send an underage, unescorted girl on a plane back to Honduras with no family take her in.”

When ICIE became involved in the case, staff noted how Judge Sims handled the case. “ICIE staff watched him in court. He had no concern and no remorse for the situation.” Thanks to ICIE’s efforts, the girl never left the country, and is now protected from deportation under the DACA Act (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, which prevents the removal of foreign nationals who were brought to the United States as children).

“These cases show his character inside the courtroom,” ICIE stated. “Immigration courts were created not to deport, but as a fail-safe against deportation. This is an administrative, not a criminal process. We are not talking about drug pushers. The court’s #1 priority is to reunite a foreign national with family. A neutral judge should make certain a foreign national is getting due process. Judge Sims does not. There must have been a large number of complaints for this move to have been made. Immigration judges can see between 20 and 30 cases a day, but it is still no excuse for his treatment of foreign nationals. People have no idea how brutal these people are being treated. They are being yelled and screamed at, and many of them only have a ninth grade education and do not speak English.”

Judge Michael Baird will now hear immigration cases involving juveniles in North Texas.

Dallas ICE refuses to help child abandoned in El Salvador

The rescue of an endangered 10 year old boy in El Salvador by Dallas area immigration group ended after the Dallas office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to cooperate with them . On Friday, January 17, Dallas ICE Field Director Simona Flores ordered all communications with the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) to end. Ralph Isenberg, the founder of ICIE, had been working with ICE agents on an emergency plan of action to rescue the young homeless boy.

The circumstances of how the boy became homeless and separated from his immediate family in America are remaining confidential at this time. This is both for security reasons, and to protect the family from additional emotional distress.

“In my opinion, we were one signature away from reuniting the family and removing this child from harm’s way,” said Isenberg, who was planning on flying himself and/or with the boy’s father to El Salvador immediately after receiving the needed signature from ICE. Isenberg had secured the necessary travel documents from government officials in El Salvador to reunite the family. There had been direct communication and cooperation between both ICE and ICIE until ICIE staff member Mery Blanco received a phone call from Dallas ICE informing her that ICE Director Flores had put the brakes on the rescue plans, and they could no longer help with the case.

“I consider the situation critical given the extreme danger this young boy is currently experiencing,” Isenberg said. “The position of Flores is indefensible, in that her actions not only violate current DHS/ ICE policy towards children, but also violate international agreements regarding children with a host of international organizations including the Organization of American States and the United Nations.”

United States Immigration Policy dating back to 1952 permits the government to immediately act and take appropriate actions when it can be shown there is a case of extreme family separation and a foreign national has an immediate relative that is a United States citizen. Both situations apply to this case. “This matter cannot be any more obvious and Field Director Flores needs to be investigated immediately,” says Isenberg, who points to a long-running feud between his organization and Dallas ICE as the primary reason Flores is being so uncooperative.

“We deal with ICE offices all across the country, and no office conducts itself the way Dallas does. It would seem Field Director Flores would rather risk the life of this young man over this dispute. I find her attitude heartless, reckless and childish to name a few adjectives,” Isenberg concludes. The family includes both parents, a sister (age 13), and two younger brothers, who are United States citizens.


The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) is “a resort of last hope” for foreign nationals. People come to ICIE because the system has failed, and as a result, someone is facing a wrongful deportation. Since their founding in 2011, ICIE has helped hundreds of deserving families, and provides all services pro-bono. The organization deals with the entire family unit, from teaching the basic fundamentals behind community service, to English education, to individualized counseling to build positive mental health. 

A child’s plea shows why ICIE fights for families

Jessica’s letter to ICE. Click to see a larger version.

Our mission here at ICIE is to not only assist foreign nationals, but their families. There is no better example of this than the case of Salomon Guevara, who was recently deported to El Salvador despite multiple circumstances that should have kept in him the country legally. Guevara has three young children, all American citizens, and a wife who are now alone in America without a breadwinner.

While ICIE was working on Salomon’s case, he sat in a jail cell away from his family. During this time, his daughter Jessica wrote to officials in the Dallas ICE office begging them to let her father go. Despite this letter, and all the facts of his case proving he should have been allowed to stay, Dallas ICE director Simona Flores had Salomon deported on Friday the 13th. Because of ICE’s indifference to a family man and Sunday School teacher, this family spent the holidays apart.