Today I met Oscar in Reynosa, Mexico at a shelter for migrants, “Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.” Oscar speaks fabulous English, which isn't surprising. He has been living in the United States since he was 16. His wife is a United States citizen and so are his three young children, Isabella (4), Ethan (3), and Matthew (1). He was just deported yesterday from the Stewart Detention Center even though he has extreme hardship and perhaps other grounds for remaining in the United States. Oscar is the primary source of income for his US citizen family, which has lost phone service since his arrest.
Why was Oscar deported despite a strong case for obtaining legal residence? Well, in addition to the inane laws that prevent movement across borders, the person who made sure even the bad laws were not being applied properly was in this case ... William Cassidy, the same Atlanta judge who deported a U.S. citizen who was born in North Carolina.
I know that Cassidy is not the only judge running a court where respondents do not find justice, and that it really is a coincidence that the folks I keep running into whose due process rights have been trampled on have recently found themselves in Cassidy's court room. (Just to be clear, the purpose of my visit to the shelter was not to find people wrongfully deported. Oscar and I started talking after he heard me asking questions about a U.S. citizen who lives in Georgia and spent some time there after he was illegally deported by the same judge who deported Oscar. Oscar mentioned he also lives in Georgia, or had lived there until yesterday.)
Or maybe not such a coincidence. Cassidy presides over the hearings of the detainees in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. These are the folks who are most likely to have detention itself serve as coercion for them to agree to deportation, even if they may have sound legal grounds for remaining in the United States, as Oscar does.
Oscar has never been convicted of any crime. The only reason he was being deported was a) he did not have a social security card; and b) Cassidy set his bail at $10,000, far too much for his family to pay. Likewise, he was too poor to afford an attorney.
A $10,000 bond for someone with strong ties to the community, no criminal history, and a strong case for establishing legal residence is a miscarriage of justice.
Oscar, who was in detention since May 11, told me he met people who had been there six months before they even had a hearing, and he couldn't bear that.
I asked Oscar if Cassidy reviewed any possible defenses against deportation with him, as he was appearing pro se. Oscar said no, and added that Cassidy does not provide any opportunity for respondents to address him, "He only talks to you. You don't talk to him."
Once again, this is not what the rules require of immigration judges in cases with pro se respondents. The Immigration Judge Benchbook states:
12. Relief from removal and deportation
a. Examine the respondent to determine what remedies against deportation may be available for him or her
b. What is your age?
c. Are you legally married? If so, what is the citizenship status of your spouse? If your spouse is an American citizen or an immigrant, did he or she file visa petition on your behalf?
Oscar told me he was not asked any of these questions, only instructed on the consequences of his deportation.
The shelter only allows people to stay three days. Along with Oscar's wife and children, his father also lives in the United States and his mother is deceased. Tomorrow Oscar takes a bus to his grandmother's home in Guerrero, Mexico.
Oscar was showing me some of his legal documents and I noticed that on the other side he had made some gorgeous drawings. The one he is holding is of the bars that keep him locked away from his wife, Kimberly, whose name is represented by the K in the center.
UPDATE 6-26-09: I will write more about the circumstances of Oscar's detention after I learn more because it is possible that the police acted unlawfully.