'You realize you're just one paper at the bottom of the pile'

Zoe Greszler • May 21, 2017 at 8:00 AM

**Corrections and clarifications**

The quotes “His children would go with him, but they will be sent back from Mexico ....” and “For some people there is no line, for some there is, I'm not joking, it’s 30, 40, 50 years long.....” were said by Eugenio Mollo of ABLE.

A quote about Jesus saying that he has been trying to get his papers since 1993 was of another man from Mexico a local religious leader spoke about. Jesus entered the U.S. about 16 years ago.



* * Original story — May 19, 2017 * *

WILLARD — How has immigration affected local families?

According to the group of immigrant rights’ advocates that met in Willard earlier this week, many come to the states to escape poverty and dangerous situations in their home country, establishing a hard-working life in the United States and starting a family, building up for the best opportunities.

A few individuals, though, shared stories of how their hopes ended abruptly as they find themselves in one of the worst nightmares — their family being torn apart.

That was the position a Willard man named Jesus found his family in. 

Jesus came from Mexico when he was in his early teens in hopes of working for a good life and a safe place to one day raise a family, he said via a translator. He now faces deportation and the possibility of he and his wife being sent back to their home country, while their four children are forced to remain in the U.S.  

“I have lived in Willard for the last 16 years and am the father of four small children,” he said through the translator.

“Right now I'm facing deportation and I'm not a criminal. I’ve never been in trouble. I'd like to ask for your prayers or your assistance in any way. I'm very sad deep in my heart. I'd like to ask for your support to stop this deportation. I work hard and support my family. I'd like to do whatever can be done (to be allowed to stay).”

Jesus said he applied to become a permanent citizen when he was old enough to do so, but has been able to. He said his troubles started in 2008 after he was pulled over on the way to a doctor’s appointment. He was driving without a license “since they would not issue me one.” Recently they asked him to report in on the 19th with a purchased ticket back to Mexico.  

“I have already purchased my ticket as they required, but I am asking the community to help me in (reversing) this deportation,” he said.

“It is a sad reality of our day that a hard working father can be forced from his home,” said main speaker of the night Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice. Tremonte said her organization is helping Jesus work with the government to fight his deportation.

“Jesus is the living definition of the American dream, working hard, 12 to 16, sometimes 18 hours a day to provide for his family and to save money to send his children to college so they can have a better life. ... He has a work permit but the government has decided to take that away from him due to new policies that went into affect in January.”

Tramonte said the deportation will effect more than Jesus. She said if he is deported, his wife will likely have to go with him. The young children would face the same issues in Mexico, though, that their parents are facing in the U.S.

“His children would go with him, but they will be sent back from Mexico because they (would be) there on a tourist visa,” she said. “They won’t be allowed to stay in Mexico; they will be sent back here on their own. 

“We’ve been trying since 1993 to get our papers and have spent $15,000 in lawyers,” Jesus said through his translator. “I was ripped off by people who said they were lawyers but were lying and would just take my money. Eventually you just give up. You realize you're just one paper at the bottom of the pile.”

David Leopold, son of a refugee and immigration attorney of David Wolfe Leopold & Associates in Cleveland, attended the meeting as a consulting expert offering to help the community learn about their rights as immigrants, “with or without papers,” and to help them decide what the next step should be.

“I think it's important that all of us understand what our rights are,” Leopold told the crowd.

“All of us that should know the U.S. Constitution is there to protect our rights — no matter who we are, whether we are documented or not. You are protected by the law of the U.S. Constitution. It’s important to know what those laws are. Like if you hear the knock at the door in the early morning hours and someone identifies themselves as an immigration officer, you do not have to open that door — period. Unless the individual has (a special warrant) and then you have a right to see that warrant. That applies to you whether you’re a citizen, whether you are undocumented, whatever your situation in the U.S.

“Over the last several years (immigration officers) were told ‘we’re going to focus on criminals and focus on people who have committed felonies, who are dangerous. We're going to go after possible terrorists.’ And of course that meant people who are just working hard, raising a family in Willard, Ohio, and other places — they were left alone because there was no point in spending time deporting them — no point. 

“Suddenly that changed in January and now immigration has been ordered to deport whoever they can find, whether it’s a criminal or not. What we have now is they have been ordered to go after anyone and that means go after the law-abiding because those are the ones that are coming into the offices trying to get their papers and meeting with them. That doesn’t make any sense.”

For some Tramonte said the issue is an endless circle. 

“For many undocumented people there is no path to get a documented status,” she said.

“For some people there is no line, for some there is, I'm not joking, it’s 30, 40, 50 years long; for those who want to see if they can get documented, they should get an attorney who practices immigration law or non-profit immigration organization.”

She offered to help any who are looking such help, either through her organization or to point immigrants in the right direction for someone else to help.

Those seeking help were encouraged to discover resources at www.aila.org, www.eeoc.gov, www.ablelaw.org or calling Tramonte at 202-255-0551. 

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