It was last year that we first told you about Pedro Gutierrez, a DREAMer from Arizona who aspires to become a Marine, who came to the US when he was 7. His grandmother, his only caretaker, died when he was still a child, leaving him an orphan. But Pedro rallied, and with the help of his community was able to graduate high school.
Last year, ICE tried to deport him, and only granted him a one-year deferral after dragging his case out to the last possible minute. In a Twilight Zone-esque replay, this year they’ve done it again: threatened to deport Pedro—now a father—and at the last minute granted him another one year stay.
It’s enough to make your head spin. On a press call today, Pedro, his lawyer, and fellow DREAMers from Arizona discussed the details surrounding Pedro’s case and called on the Obama Administration to uphold their promise to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for the thousands of cases like Pedro’s. The speakers questioned why a young man such as Pedro, who clearly meets the criteria of someone who should not be deported, was set on the pathway to deportation twice by local immigration officials. Were Pedro not connected to community advocates, he surely would have been deported to Mexico, a country where he has no family and a place where he doesn’t even speak the language.
As Pedro said on the call:
I consider myself a part of the United States. My entire life is in this country and I have nothing in Mexico: no family, no job and no home. Since my graduation from high school my goal has always been to be a Marine and honorably serve this wonderful country that has given me the opportunities to thrive. I’m so thankful for to have received this one year stay- I couldn’t imagine being deported and potentially separated from my newborn daughter. I implore the government to exercise the same sort of discretion for the millions of other DREAMers and hardworking fathers, just like me.
Last time, an outraged community had to send 10,000 faxes to the Department of Homeland Security to help keep Pedro at home. Today’s result did not come easily either—legal channels were exhausted, U.S. Senators and members of Congress made calls, over 1,000 faxes were sent, and 500 petitions were collected to make his newest one-year stay possible.
Mo Goldman, Pedro’s lawyer, wondered how many cases similar to Pedro’s were out there, potentially being deported because they weren’t getting the help they needed:
After Pedro got deferred action last year, I figured we were on solid footing. According to the memo that ICE released last August, Pedro had an even stronger case this year than he had last year because of his new baby girl. Instead, we had to go through extraordinary steps, including contacting members of Congress and advocacy groups, to spread the word about the travesty of his initial denial. ICE’s reversing the denial was the right decision, but it begs the question: how many people who do not have legal representation or contact with advocacy groups are not getting the discretion they deserve?
Arizona will be a key battleground state in this fall’s presidential election, and the Latino community there–which has been drastically impacted by the Obama Administration’s deportation policy–is paying close attention to the President’s record on immigration. While Pedro’s case may be a step in the right direction, there’s a lot more ground the Administration has to cover in order to capture the Latino vote this fall.
According to Gaby Pacheco, END Project Coordinator for the United We Dream Network, said:
We are saddened that the White House and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t carried out the discretion policies they said they would. To say we are disappointed is an understatement. Our community feels deceived, because prosecutorial discretion was going to be a priority, and members of our community weren’t going to be deported. This new policy is not working, and we want to call out President Obama, Secretary Janet Napolitano, ICE Director John Morton, Citizenship Director Alejandro Mayorkas to do the right thing.
Listen to a recording of today’s call here.