Children suffer the most under ICE’s broken system

childBecause of the sensitive nature of the details provided below, ICIE is choosing not to identify the family.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has little desire to keep families together, as evidenced by their history of aggressive deportation. Perhaps even more egregious is their failure to assist foreign nationals here legally when they have problems. In a case currently being handled by ICIE, the failure by government officials to act has literally destroyed a local family.

The problems for the family began earlier this year when a mother of four, who was here legally on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), had to return to her home country when her mother had a heart attack. She thought her TPS allowed for short trips out of the country, but airline officials failed to notify her that her travel documents would not allow her to return to America. When she tried, her entry was denied, and even different government immigration officials could not agree on whether her travel documents allowed her to reenter. Her return was ultimately denied, leaving four children, all U.S. citizens, without their only parent. They are currently in the care of their godparents.

Complicating matters, since the mother was not allowed to return to the United States, she missed an appointment with ICE officials to renew her TPS, who now refuse to work with her to bring her back to her children.

While the mother suffers in a foreign country, her children have suffered the most. Her six year old, so traumatized by the separation from his mother, has stopped talking completely. The oldest child, 16 years old, has had to drop out of school to help support the family.

A third child, only 12 years old, has had perhaps the hardest struggle. After being constantly teased by schoolmates that her mother was a criminal and an illegal alien, and blaming herself for her mother’s situation, she attempted suicide.

“We just had all four kids in our offices, and they are all completely devastated over the separation from their mother,” ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg said. “This situation should never have happened. This mother should be here in America with her children, but our government isn’t willing to do anything about it. They could very easily resolve this situation.”

Isenberg remains in contact with the mother as they attempt to bring her home, and is ensuring the children receive proper assistance and treatment.

 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Tells Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) to Cease Operations!

 

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It would seem the Washington Times front page story may have gotten the top management at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) upset enough to order the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work on immediately putting ICIE out of commission, despite the harm such an action will cause upon those ICIE is helping.

The threat is nothing less than reporting ICIE to the Bar of Texas for practicing law without a license. Why DHS would want to focus on ICIE when the agency has hundreds of immigration attorney complaints to investigate, and even more fraud cases to investigate in every state of the Union, is truly amazing. To make ICIE the center of attention (given our record), and the fact that there has never been a complaint filed by a foreign national against ICIE, appears to be nothing less than a self-serving measure by DHS to avoid well deserved criticism.

The ICIE organization has kept several thousand family members together and suffered only three setbacks in over 370-plus contacts with the various agencies we deal with. The matters that cross our desk are extremely complicated and require a multidisciplinary approach that must include plenty of “out of the box thinking” to figure out what happened to the foreign national, and whether the foreign national received fair treatment. DHS fails to recognize that ICIE is dealing with more nationals than we are dealing with foreign nationals, as 78% of the immediate family members are children that are United States Citizens.

ICIE maintains that we are in full compliance with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) as to the “intent of Congress” and the rules that were enacted two years later (8 CFR). The Act clearly permits citizens to get directly involved in helping foreign nationals when specific conditions are met. In the opinion of ICIE, DHS does not like the opinions I advocate, and instead of trying to understand them, they prefer to shut ICIE down.

My initial response will be to proceed with extreme caution, as I hardly consider myself a criminal, and there are too many foreign nationals depending upon us to do anything stupid. I will say that if DHS thinks “they can bully me like I see foreign nationals in Dallas, TX bullied they have picked on the wrong guy to dance with. After all, I do not know how to Texas Two Step, nor do I know the Washington Hop Scotch.” I am of the opinion that the “cease and desist” letter, coupled with the verbal threat made against me, is a violation of my First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights.

There are four conditions that ICIE must meet to help foreign nationals. The first condition is that any person that wants to assist a foreign national must be doing so on an “individual case basis” and be a “reputable individual” of “good moral character,” with the foreign national having full knowledge of these facts. USCIS conceded I likely would have no problem with this provision, although heretofore I have been told this provision meant I was only allowed to help someone once in my entire lifetime.

The second condition is that ICIE can get no “remuneration (better known as money) either directly or indirectly” from the work being done, and that a disclosure form must be turned in every time contact or a “notice of appearance” is declared with either DHS or DOJ. Recently, there was a mix-up in the office and the declaration form was not attached to several “notices of appearance” sent to USCIS even though the exhibits submitted contained the declaration. Let me make it perfectly clear that my organization has never collected one penny from a foreign national or received a contribution.

The third provision states that in order to assist a foreign national, there must be a “pre-existing relationship or connection” between the foreign national and the person wanting to help. The provision continues to say that if the foreign national cannot obtain legal assistance this requirement may be waived. USCIS states that ICIE operates outside of this requirement without providing ICIE with one ounce of proof that this is true. On the other-hand, ICIE argues that it can not find one BIA or Court cite on the matter making the contention of USCIS no different than that of ICIE; a matter of first impression. In addition to the language related to the need for a “pre-existing relationship or connection,” the rules list examples of some of the types of relationships that qualify. In no way does the rule limit the examples to being the only relationships that qualify.

When a foreign national comes to see ICIE, we are looking for a very specific type of matter to assist with. The matters that concern ICIE involve Constitutional Law and “Extreme Family Separation.” ICIE will spend hundreds of hours on some matters before making a conclusion. The facts we gather before contacting an authority is staggering, unless the situation is an emergency. ICIE can safely state that by the time ICIE makes first contact with an authority, we know more about the foreign national than the rules ever contemplated. Many of our contacts are to correct errors in fact that DHS or DOJ believe to be true about the foreign national. The information that we gather is such that we would be considered an “intimate friend” by all standards of society.

As mentioned, the requirement of a pre-existing relationship can be waived if the foreign national is unable to obtain counsel. The handouts used by the various agencies are flawed in that no non-profit will generally assist a foreign national with a criminal record. Individual attorneys on the list have no desire to spend the hundreds of hours required to figure out the type of matter ICIE gets involved in. ICIE feels that since there are provisions for some sort of assistance and DHS now desires to deny this assistance to the foreign nationals, this would appear to be a clear-cut violation of the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The last provision is the hardest of the four for ICIE to pass. According to the last provision, ICIE cannot make an appearance before an agency if ICIE “regularly engages in the immigration and naturalization practice or preparation, or holds ourselves out to the public as qualified to do so.” ICIE is first and foremost an organization that advocates and strives to improve the immigration system of the United States. ICIE goes to great lengths to make certain we do not “regularly engage in “immigration and naturalization preparation” as shown by the fact that given our success record ICIE does not really get involved in that many matters. ICIE estimates that the ratio for accepting a matter to take on versus directing the matter elsewhere, is four to five hundred rejections to one acceptance. This high rejection rate is due to the strict discipline of sticking to our mission statement, no matter how heartfelt the matter before us may be.

As stated above, we only take on matters that involve Constitutional Law or “Extreme Family Separation” which is strictly a humanitarian concern on the part of ICIE for our fellow man. Our matter load is such that ICIE in no way encourages people to see us. In many cases, we call the matters we see “walking miracles,” for the foreign national really was in need of a “resort of last hope.” Since ICIE feels it is in full compliance with the four provisions of the INA of 1952, DHS knows that there is an absolute requirement that we represent the foreign national as if we were an attorney or accredited or we can face the same sanctions. Is this not a catch 22 for ICIE to be in? We get threatened for trying to be up-to-date on the law, yet we are required by the same law to do exactly that.

It would seem DHS would want ICIE to err on the side of caution and do the latter. What DHS does not know is that ICIE does in fact consult with immigration and criminal attorneys on a regular basis and for a reduced rate. These attorneys want nothing to do with the matters but also do not want to see us take a position that is not lawful. For DHS to suggest that ICIE engages in the practice of law is just plain silly and a fabrication of the facts. ICIE will help a foreign national get an immigration form correct that an immigration attorney has filled out wrong in the past,  but we are merely filling in the blanks and informing the foreign national of the documents he needs to gather for submission.

The only reason ICIE uses a “notice of appearance” is to make sure there is complete transparency in our actions. ICIE wants DHS to know exactly what is going on. Surely, such an action should not deserve punishment, but praise. What we do is hardly engaging regularly in “immigration and naturalization preparation.” ICIE would also note that there are a large number of forms that ICIE is permitted to get involved and help a foreign national with. In the final analysis, the first words out of my mouth when I meet a foreign national, a person asking an immigration question, or a member of the press, is “I am not an attorney nor is anyone at ICIE accredited,” and that I am merely expressing my opinion as a citizen under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Any impression the public may hold about ICIE is strictly based on their own conclusions that are out of my reach.

Let me repeat: any opinion I may have is an expression of my “Freedom of Speech” rights granted me under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. I am of the firm belief that the most noble exercise of this right is when a citizen stands tall and advocates for those that find themselves in a position of being hopelessly muted by their situation. DHS has also crossed the  line and violated the Fifth Amendment Right of the Bill of Rights because DHS does not have the power to, in any way, restrict me from exercising a right granted in the Bill of Rights. This is a clear “Due Process of Law” violation. Finally, I submit that DHS has failed to consider the language of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights as it pertains to the separation of powers between the States and the Union. Nowhere in the laws of the State of Texas can I find a provision similar to 8 CFR 292.1(a)(3)(i-iv) or any restriction on the part of a Citizen of Texas to refrain from helping a foreign national with an immigration problem.

The State of Texas is a “border state” and is well aware of the need to exercise caution in getting in the middle of matters like ICIE gets involved with. I am also struck by the fact the Constitution of the United States does not have a single provision where a person must be an attorney to hold offices like the Supreme Court Justice, Federal Circuit Judge, District Court Judge, Senator, Congressman, Vice President, Cabinet Member and President and yet DHS proposes to use the Bar of Texas to silence me. Our mission is worthy, and our cause is truly a missionary one, that has been blessed with tremendous success. In the final analysis: There is right, there is wrong, and there is the right thing to do. ICIE is always about doing the right thing.

Written By: Ralph Isenberg, Founder

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.

Doing It By The Book

guevara21ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg personally provides this update on one of its many cases.

The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) along with the help of the immigration law firm that we most turn to for help, Rizo & Associates, combined efforts to get a I-131 Travel Document approved for Sandra, the wife of Salomon Guevara, who was wrongly deported by Dallas ICE for a crime, even after ICIE informed ICE there was proof he did not commit it. Sandra, who is on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from El Salvador, is approved to return to El Salvador and attend to her sick mother and help her family prepare to bury her grandmother.

ICIE THANKS DALLAS USCIS FOR THEIR UNDERSTANDING BY APPROVING AND PROCESSING THE PAPERWORK IN ONE DAY, AS THE FUNERAL OF THE GRANDMOTHER IS TODAY.

The irony is Santos, another woman in the United States on TPS, faced the same problem, but she handled things differently and had a terrible outcome. If she had followed the same procedures, Santos would have been able to go to be at her mother’s side after she suffered a heart attack, and then return to the United States to be with her four United States citizen children. In the case of Sandra, she was a member of “La Familia de ICIE” (families we regularly work with on immigration issues), and called our coordinator Reyna for help. In the case of Santos, the family contacted us after she was stuck in El Salvador. ICIE, along with Rizo and Associates, has an appointment with Dallas USCIS to see if anything can be done in a timely fashion to return Santos to the United States, as the children are all starting to show advanced stages of “separation disorder,” which can lead to severe depression. The emotional health issues are such that they can affect the children for the rest of their lives.

 

Deported refugee now in hiding in El Salvador, in fear of his life

UPDATE 5/29: Isenberg has learned that since his return to El Salvador, Mr. Diaz has been confronted twice by armed, hooded men, who threatened his life if he does not leave the country.  After these threats, and after someone was murdered in front of his house, Mr. Diaz went into hiding, afraid to stay with friends or family members out of fear for their safety. He is reportedly low on money and desperate.

Isenberg has been in touch with the American Embassy in San Salvador, as well as several federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Some officials indicated a willingness to investigate the matter and possibly meet with Mr. Diaz. Still others dismissed the situation, with one telling Isenberg “Diaz’s story is no different than the other 6 million people in El Salvador. We can’t help them all.”

Isenberg said he was reminded of the story of the boy on a beach who came across hundreds of starfish that had washed up on shore. He began throwing them back into the sea one at a time. The boy’s father said his efforts were futile, as he couldn’t save them all. The boy held up one starfish and said “But I can save this one.” “I see ICIE as a starfish organization,” Isenberg said. “We can’t save everyone, but to the ones we can save, it means the world. Right now, Mr. Diaz is our starfish.”

ORIGINAL POST 5/28: The case of Elvin Marroquin Diaz, a political refugee who was recently deported from the United States to El Salvador, has taken a troubling turn. Mr. Diaz made an emergency call to ICIE offices Wednesday, saying he has gone into hiding in El Salvador because new threats have put him in immediate fear of his life. Mr. Diaz, a political activist while in El Salvador, fled the country after MS-13 gang members and individuals in the country’s ruling party threatened his life. Even though government officials found validity in his claim that he would face violence should he return to his country, a U.S. immigration judge deported him in April.

According to Ralph Isenberg, Mr. Diaz called their offices in a panic over the new threats. “He was so afraid, he was not even willing to talk on the phone or provide too many details,” he said. “We were able to ascertain that these threats were current, and directly related to the testimony he provided about individuals in El Salvador during his immigration hearing. His testimony and assistance helped his other family members stay in the United States under a refugee claim.”

Isenberg said Mr. Diaz was too afraid to even identify over the phone who was making the threats, so ICIE staff could not determine if MS-13 or government officials were behind the threats. Most disturbing of all, when asked to rate his chances of being killed within the next 72 hours, Diaz responded with an “8.”

Isenberg said he told U.S. authorities that he was afraid Diaz would be killed within 6 months if he returned to El Salvador, a country with the highest non-war-zone murder rate in the world. Isenberg has contacted the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador and the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to help Diaz. He even made a controversial move by reaching out to Judge Thomas Fong, who had earlier dismissed Isenberg’s complaints over the handling of Diaz’s case. Isenberg has even been in contact with The Washington Times, who had just profiled Diaz’s case in an extended article. They indicated that they are monitoring the situation as well.

We will update Mr. Diaz’s situation as more information becomes available.

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.”

ICIE UPDATE: ICE sends mixed signals on Marroquin family’s plight

5_132015_isenberg8201_s878x583Dateline Dallas, TX: May 20, 2015  There is good news and bad news in the fight to keep Elmer Marroquin in this country and with his family (you can read our previous coverage of the family’s plight here). Last week, Elmer was scheduled to be deported, but a last-minute motion to reopen his case for review was filed by ICIE staff, and a stay of deportation was immediately given.

ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg received word from the San Antonio ICE office (who is handling the motion to reopen) that they would not contest the motion and allow an immigration judge to review Elmer’s case and consider new information, allowing Marroquin a new chance to make his case to stay in the United States.

However, ICE officials in Dallas continue to lead the charge to separate this family and deport Elmer. “Despite being in close contact with other ICE officials regarding Elmer’s case, Dallas ICE officials would not talk to me,” Isenberg said, continuing their long-standing practice of shutting out Isenberg whenever he stepped in to help Dallas-area immigrants they were trying to deport.

When Dallas ICE officials finally spoke with Isenberg, they made their vendetta against Elmer clear. “They said I was wasting their time with Elmer, and that he was on ‘high priority’ to be deported,” Isenberg said. This insistence that Marroquin be deported comes even though he has at least five relief factors that our government considers as reasons to allow an immigrant to stay in America. These relief factors include: a U.S. citizen relative (a sister in Houston) willing to sponsor him; extreme family separation (in which a deportation would separate immediate family members) of a father from his wife and children; children who qualify for refugee status in the United States; a credible fear of personal harm or death upon his return to his country, and a U.S. citizen child with special medical needs.

ICE is trying to justify Elmer’s deportation based on a DWI arrest years ago. Isenberg points out that ICIE has a policy of not helping foreign nationals who have committed crimes, but he notes that in this case, Elmer took responsibility for his mistake, turned his life around, and is committed to being a good example to his children. He pled guilty to the misdemeanor and received a sentence of 30 days in jail. He served 10 days total, with time off for good behavior.

Isenberg does not dispute the original charge, but wants to point out to the judge that Marroquin had several avenues of relief available to him in immigration court that were not considered, while the attempt to deport him is based on ICE policy without any relief consideration. “This is a good man who made a mistake and deserves a second chance,” he said.

Even though Dallas ICE officials oppose keeping the Marroquin family together, the motion to reopen provides hope that justice will prevail in this case.

Isenberg also reports that ICIE remains overwhelmed with cases. Thankfully, he points out, there are immigration attorneys who are willing to work with them on a pro-bono basis. These attorneys are attracted to Isenberg’s out-of-the-box thinking and unconventional tactics, and seek the experience of working with immigration cases that ICIE provides.

In other news, Isenberg wrote a blistering letter to Asst. Chief Immigration Judge Thomas Fong, informing him of his intent to file a complaint against him. Fong had written a condescending letter in response to Isenberg’s complaint alleging misconduct by Immigration Judge Traci Hong in the case of Elvin Diaz of El Salvador. Fong dismissed Isenberg’s claims, saying he does not understand immigration court proceedings because he is not a lawyer. He also criticized Isenberg’s actions in court that assist immigrants, because he is not recognized by the government as an approved advocate.

“How dare he dress down a citizen of the United States the way he addressed me,” Isenberg said, pointing out that he has volunteered hundreds of hours assisting foreign nationals with no legal counsel, usually with cases immigration attorneys refuse to deal with. “It’s sad that a judge would feel so threatened by a lay person,” he said.

Isenberg challenges Judge Fong to prove his assertion that he lacks knowledge of immigration courtroom procedures, and points out that those he assists know he has never claimed to be an attorney or a recognized expert on immigration. “I am performing a labor of love,” he says, insisting that he wants a public apology from both judges, or he will petition the government for their removal, for restricting his right to free speech under the Bill of Rights.

Not only did Judge Hong berate Isenberg in court, she attacked pro-bono attorney Jason Franklin, a well-respected Dallas attorney who has been named a  Texas “Super Lawyer” several times. Isenberg was assisting Franklin in court, much to the chagrin of Hong, who refused to accept his affidavits from witnesses and ran her court like a “three ring circus,” according to Isenberg. He hopes Franklin gets the chance, at some point, to testify to Hong’s behavior in court. “She picked on the wrong attorney,” Isenberg said. “If blood is spilled in El Salvador because they allowed a good man (Diaz) to be deported into a dangerous situation, it will be on their heads.”

Isenberg is preparing to submit a formal complaint to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Chief Immigration Judge regarding the misconduct and behavior of Judges Hong and Fong.

 

 

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.

Re: Azteca Television’s broadcast of “El Gringo Schindler” documentary disaster

ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg issued the following statement regarding the broadcast of “El Gringo Schindler” on Azteca TV.

On behalf of the entire ICIE organization, I wish to apologize to our friends and the general public for the airing of the wrong version of “El Gringo Schindler” on Azteca Dallas on May 5, 2015. The copyrighted version that was approved by the Library of Congress is in my possession and I intend to make heads roll for this unauthorized release starting with the “so called” director. Azteca Dallas will not air any more segments as the work is not professional enough to be viewed by the general public. Instead a retraction of the first segment and an apology by ICIE will be aired.

En nombre de toda la organización ICIE, quiero pedir disculpas a nuestros amigos y al público en general para la emisión de la versión incorrecta de “El Gringo Schindler” en Azteca Dallas el 5 de mayo de 2015. La versión con derechos de autor que fue aprobado por la Biblioteca del Congreso está en mi posesión y tengo la intención de hacer que las cabezas ruedan para esta versión no autorizada a partir de la “llamada” director. Azteca Dallas no saldrá al aire los más segmentos como el trabajo no es lo suficientemente profesional para ser visto por el público en general. En su lugar se emitirán una retracción del primer segmento y una disculpa por ICIE.

U.S. citizen children left motherless by immigration mix-up

Escobar's children plead for her return.
Escobar’s children plead for her return.

Somewhere in the city of Dallas tonight, four young children will pray that they will someday see their mother again. It has been two months since they have seen her last, and they will likely cry themselves to sleep once again, and wonder if they will ever be reunited.

No sooner had Ralph Isenberg and the staff at ICIE reunited a family from El Salvador (you can read that story right here), that they dove into the case of another El Salvador foreign national in need. Santos Julia Escobar is stuck in El Salvador, thousands of miles from her children, thanks to a broken immigration system that does little to assist foreign nationals, and a failure by an airline to look out for its passengers.

Escobar has lived in the United States for a number of years, and is a single mother with four U.S. citizen children (ages 5, 9, 13, and 16). She lived here legally under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a designation given to foreign nationals because the violence in her country, primarily from drug dealers and gangs, is a direct threat to her safety should stay there. Her problems began when Escobar learned that her mother, who still lived in El Salvador, had suffered a heart attack.

Escobar believed her Temporary Protected Status allowed her to leave the country for short trips, so she took her three youngest children with her on the trip. When she went to DFW Airport in late February to fly to El Salvador, employees with Avianca Airlines failed to inform her that her travel documents would not allow her to reenter the country. She didn’t learn of the problem until she tried to fly back to the United States after a few days with her mother. “Avianca Airlines should have told her that her documents were not valid for a round-trip,” ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg said. “She had purchased a round trip ticket and they had a responsibility to ensure she had the right documents.” Isenberg said Avianca officials did not take responsibility for the mistake and provided little help with her situation.

Avianca Airlines did allow Escobar’s three children (who were U.S. citizens) to return to the U.S., but did not ensure that an adult would meet them in Dallas. Escobar’s 16-year-old daughter, who did not make the trip, had to meet them at the airport.

Escobar’s problems only got worse from there. She was due to meet with officials with U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) in early March to renew her TPS status, but since she was stuck in El Salvador, she missed the appointment and her TPS status lapsed, creating yet another barrier to her reentry into the U.S.

Isenberg said Escobar’s mistake regarding her travel restrictions comes from the fact that government documents issued to foreign nationals are difficult to read and understand. “I’m very familiar with government immigration documents, and even I was confused by the wording on the documents. If I had difficulty, how is a foreign national with limited English skills and education expected to understand it all? And our government provides little help to these folks.”

While Escobar waits in El Salvador, her children are parentless, and are being cared for by their godmother, but it is not an easy situation. Isenberg says the entire situation could be resolved if the government chooses to do the right thing. They are seeking permission for Escobar to reenter the country on humanitarian grounds and re-apply for TPS. “There is a simple solution here. All the government has to do is say yes, and this family can be back together.”