His Case Goes South

U.S.Immigration Judge Victoria Young said she found it "unfortunate" that someone who has lived here for virtually all of his 47 years should face being sent to Mexico, where he was born before coming to this country as a baby with his mother. And the man charged with pressing the government's case for deportation during a May 18 hearing at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney Robert Peck, expressed something approaching regret. "I respect the fact that he's lived his entire life here," Peck told the judge.

That made not a whit of difference in the end for Julio Gonzalez. Nor did Gonzalez's uncontested claim, backed by a birth certificate, that his late mother was a U.S. citizen. Nor that his wife and four mostly grown children are all American citizens. (See "They Could Be Citizens and They Might Be Deported," April 26.)

The judge decided that Gonzalez would have to go. As the ICE attorney conceded after the hearing: "The why of immigration law is very confusing."

Never mind the why. Just figuring out the law itself is a task even the government finds challenging. ICE got mixed up about the regulations pertaining to Gonzalez's case, but the bottom line is that to claim American citizenship by virtue of his mother, he has to prove that she lived in the U.S. for five years before his birth, including two years after she was 14. Too poor to afford an attorney, not seeming to really understand what was being asked of him, he failed to provide any such evidence at the hearing. Hence, Young's decision. "Frankly, Mr. Gonzalez, I'm sorry the proof's not there," the judge said, as his wife, Charlotte, sobbed and three of his children looked on, stunned.

The judge had also considered whether Gonzalez might be eligible to stay based on criteria requiring him to show that his removal would cause "exceptional and unusual hardship" to his family. Charlotte's tearful protestations that she needed her husband at home, the family's fear of homelessness given the loss of Gonzalez's income—all that was merely the "normal hardship any immigrant family being split up faces," the judge said.

If Gonzalez can come up with evidence about his mother's residence, he can petition to reopen the case. Otherwise, he has the option of appealing before the Board of Immigration Appeals.


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