About Me

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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Capitol Police arrest scores of Catholic nuns and leaders calling for immigration reform

By Esther Yu Hsi Lee
February 27, 2018

Dozens of Catholic group and faith leaders were arrested on Capitol Hill Tuesday, after calling on lawmakers to support bipartisan immigration legislation that makes permanent protections available to Dreamers protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Ahead of a civil disobedience action in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda during the “National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers,” Catholic leaders spoke about the moral imperative to pass legislation that provides dignity to undocumented immigrants. The event, organized by PICO National Network and Faith in Public Life, intended to get congressional members to pass a narrow bill that would give legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

“Scripture tells me that every person no matter their immigration status is a child of God and deserves to be treated with dignity,” Sister JoAnn Persch said during a press conference prior to the event. “These young Dreamers are a gift to our country and I stand with them in this moment of truth. You can’t call yourself a person of faith and not act.”

Crowds formed a circle in the middle of the rotunda to pray the rosary, before Capitol Police arrested about 40 faith leaders — many of whom were nuns — peacefully singing gospel songs like “Amazing Grace.” They also chanted, “Paul! Paul! Why do you persecute me?” likely in a double-edged reference to Paul the Apostle who became a follower of Jesus after he stopped persecuting Christians, as well as to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) who has control over what bills can be put on the House calendar. Their songs echoed through the cavernous hallways, with the only other sounds coming from the zip ties Capitol Police used to tie their wrists behind their backs. People in the upper level applauded as police escorted the last protester — a nun — out of the rotunda.

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, one of the individuals arrested, previously wrote of his planned arrest as “an expression of solidarity with ‘Dreamers.’”

“To say that they broke the law and should be punished would be like prosecuting a baby in a stroller when its mother shoplifts diapers at Walmart,” Reese wrote in a National Catholic Reporter piece published the day before.

The Senate recently took up several immigration measures to provide a pathway to citizenship for certain DACA recipients, but every proposal failed to get the necessary 60 votes to pass in the Senate. The Trump administration phased out the DACA program in September 2017, punting the issue of the future immigration status of nearly 800,000 Dreamers to Congress. The Obama-era program provides temporary work authorization and deportation relief to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 and have continuously resided in the country since 2007.

Multiple court challenges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have forced the federal government to continue reissuing DACA protections. Since it’s likely that the White House will continue to try to kill DACA, Tuesday’s action by Catholic leaders aimed to put pressure on congressional lawmakers to pass a permanent solution.

As was likely the intention, the image of older Catholic nuns and clergy members getting arrested should raise eyebrows and take on extra significance among congressional lawmakers. One-third of all House members and a quarter of Senators identify as Catholic, according to Catholic News Service, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). Top Catholic leaders like Archbishop of Newark Joseph Tobin — one of three Americans named to such a high rank — sees welcoming immigrants and refugees as a parable akin to Jesus’ journey as a refugee child in Egypt.

Catholic leaders who risked arrest to stand up for immigrant rights aren’t alone in their advocacy. As a longstanding supporter of immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis has used his pulpit to advocate for an attitude of “welcoming, knowing and acknowledging” the other, Crux recently reported. He has visited refugees at welcoming centers around Europe, launched worldwide campaigns to “share the journey” of refugees and immigrants, and criticized Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Black Civil Rights Activists Arrested Outside Paul Ryan's Office, Demand Permanent Solution for DACA and TPS

By Carlos Ballesteros
February 27, 2018

A group of black civil rights leaders led an act of civil disobedience outside of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, demanding Congress provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought illegally into the country without eroding visa programs that protect tens of thousands of black immigrants from across the world.

The action aimed to highlight the experiences of over 600,000 black undocumented immigrants living in the United States, which advocates say sit at the periphery of discussions surrounding immigration policy. Protestors also decried the Trump administration’s attempt to end the visa diversity lottery program, which has benefitted hundreds of thousands of African migrants, and the termination of Temporary Protected Status for seven nations, five of which are predominantly black.

The protest was organized by the UndocuBlack Network, a progressive advocacy group headed by undocumented black immigrants. Due to fears of persecution and deportation, no undocumented immigrants participated in the protest.

The protestors originally wanted to hold a sit-in, but Ryan did not open his office doors to the group. Instead, Minister Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network led six others protesters in prayer outside Ryan’s office, including Tamika D. Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March.

Capitol police quickly detained the protestors and escorted them out of the Longworth House Office Building.

Before being detained, Foy underscored the importance of bringing black undocumented voices to the forefront of the immigration debate.

“We can’t have an honest discussion about immigration without talking about undocumented black immigrants,” he said. “It seems as though even in discussions regarding immigration, black folks seem to be the least of these.”

Ryan’s office could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday’s protest came directly after a congressional briefing organized by and hosted by Democratic Representative Yvette D. Clarke of New York.

At the briefing, Clarke underscored the importance of centering the black immigrant experience in discussions surrounding DACA and TPS.

“We need to raise our voice for the black immigrant—for the undocumented black presence in America,” Clarke declared.

According to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center, there were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from just 816,000 in 1980, making up nine percent of the total foreign-born population in the country. Of those, roughly 620,000 are undocumented.

Most of these immigrants hail from African and Caribbean nations, primarily from Jamaica, Haiti and Nigeria. A majority of them came to America through family reunification visas or through the visa diversity lottery program, both of which the Trump administration wants to curtail or completely eliminate.

Black immigrants also make up a relatively small portion of DACA recipients: According to government statistics, nearly 11,000 of the almost 700,000 DACA recipients are from countries where more than half of the nations’ immigrants to the United States are black.

But the number of DACA-eligible black immigrants is much higher: According to an estimate by the Migration Policy Institute, some 36,000 African immigrants would have been eligible for DACA if the program had not been discontinued by the Trump administration in September. There are no similar estimates for DACA-eligible black immigrants from the Caribbean.

In the past, Ryan has voiced sympathy for DACA recipients and has expressed a desire to allow them to stay in the country. But the Wisconsin Republican has also stood by Trump’s demand to cut legal immigration and put an end to TPS and the diversity lottery program.

“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share. To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference in the Capitol on February 8. “We will bring a solution to the floor—one that the president will sign.”

So far, both the House and the Senate have failed to reach a viable solution for DACA, but two federal court injunctions have ruled that the Trump administration broke the law when it abruptly ended DACA.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, ruling instead that it should go the regular route through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. DACA recipients will now be able to continue to renew their study and work permits until the appeal is heard.

As of January, the Department of Homeland Security has revoked or announced it will revoke TPS protections for 300,000 immigrants from seven countries—Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador—by the end of next year. Many of them have U.S. citizen children and most are fully employed.

The administration argues that these protections—meant to benefit immigrants from countries experiencing extraordinary environmental and political hardships—can no longer be justified.

However, a group of Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants last week announced a lawsuit against the Trump administration, accusing it of racism over its decision to end the TPS program. It was reported last month that Trump, in a meeting on immigration, referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole” countries.Trump is also reported to have said that Haitians “all have aids” and Nigerians live “in huts.”

But immigration rights advocates say that these countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of their repatriated citizens. Advocates also argue it is immoral to separate families who have established roots in America for decades.

“We are as American as anyone else,” Patrice Lawrence, policy director UndocuBlack Network, said during Tuesday’s congressional briefing.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Judge Curiel, once attacked by Trump, rules border wall can proceed

By Tal Kopan
February 28, 2018

US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has cleared one potential obstacle to President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, ruling Tuesday that the administration has the authority to waive a host of environmental laws and other regulations to begin construction.

Curiel’s 100-page order does not mean construction of the wall will begin immediately. Congress has yet to authorize or provide funding for any new wall to begin the project. Thus far, the Department of Homeland Security has built several prototypes in San Diego — which was the focus of the lawsuit Curiel rejected.

Still, the ruling is a win for the administration as it seeks to get money to build its wall, a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign. The President hailed the “big legal win” late Tuesday, tweeting that the “important project can go forward.”

Curiel’s ruling left little doubt that the DHS has broad authority to issue waivers — authorized in a cluster of laws passed by Congress in the mid 1990s to 2000s — to expedite the construction of border barriers and infrastructure. His lengthy ruling went point-by-point through the challenges to DHS’ authority brought by environmental groups and the state of California and rejected all of them.

Judge criticized by Trump will hear case on border wall

Curiel was famously the target of Trump’s ire when he presided over a lawsuit against Trump University, which was ultimately settled after Trump won the White House.

Trump drew fierce criticism in June 2016 when he said that Curiel, who was born in Indiana, was biased against him due to his Mexican heritage.

In his ruling Tuesday, Curiel noted that the border wall is a highly contentious issue under this administration but said he did not factor that into his decision.

“The court is aware that the subject of these lawsuits, border barriers, is currently the subject of heated political debate in and between the United States and the Republic of Mexico as to the need, efficacy and the source of funding for such barriers,” Curiel wrote. “In its review of this case, the Court cannot and does not consider whether underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent.”

The groups had challenged DHS’ move to expedite construction of the prototypes and replacement fencing in San Diego on a number of grounds. The collection of lawsuits from the environmental advocacy organizations and the state of California argued that the Trump administration’s waiver wasn’t allowed by the law that created the overarching authority and that the authority itself violated the Constitution.

Curiel rejected each argument, saying the law and the nature of the border clearly give the DHS broad authority to build border barriers.

“Both Congress and the Executive share responsibilities in protecting the country from terrorists and contraband illegally entering at the borders. Border barriers, roads, and detection equipment help provide a measure of deterrence against illegal entries,” Curiel wrote. “With section 102, Congress delegated to its executive counterpart, the responsibility to construct border barriers as needed in areas of high illegal entry to detect and deter illegal entries. In an increasingly complex and changing world, this delegation avoids the need for Congress to pass a new law to authorize the construction of every border project.”

In addition to pro-immigration and civil liberties groups, environmental groups have opposed the construction of Trump’s border wall on the grounds that it would disturb sensitive wildlife and ecosystems.

One section of Trump’s proposed wall in Texas would run through a wildlife preserve.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, hailed the ruling.

“Border security is paramount to stemming the flow of illegal immigration that contributes to rising violent crime and to the drug crisis, and undermines national security,” said spokesman Devin O’Malley. “We are pleased DHS can continue this important work vital to our nation’s interests.”

One of the groups challenging the wall said it intended to appeal the decision.

“We intend to appeal this disappointing ruling, which would allow Trump to shrug off crucial environmental laws that protect people and wildlife,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration has completely overreached its authority in its rush to build this destructive, senseless wall.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that he was considering his options.

“We remain unwavering in our belief that the Trump Administration is ignoring laws it doesn’t like in order to resuscitate a campaign talking point of building a wall on our southern border,” Becerra said. “We will evaluate all of our options and are prepared to do what is necessary to protect our people, our values, and our economy from federal overreach. A medieval wall along the US-Mexico border simply does not belong in the 21st century.”

The waiver authority to build barriers along the border has been used a number of times dating back to the George W. Bush administration, and it has been upheld by the courts every time it has been challenged.

Trump is scheduled to visit the border wall prototypes next month.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Despite legal victory, Trump needs money for border wall

By Elliot Spagat
February 28, 2018

President Donald Trump has won a judge’s permission to build a border wall with Mexico. Now he just needs the money.

A judge who was taunted by Trump during the presidential campaign sided on Tuesday with the president on a challenge to building the wall. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel rejected arguments by the state of California and advocacy groups that the administration overreached by waiving laws requiring environmental and other reviews before construction can begin.

“Big legal win today,” Trump tweeted in response to the ruling. He didn’t mention his prior remarks about the judge’s Mexican heritage.

Despite the victory, Congress has yet to fund the wall and Trump’s demands that Mexico pay have gone nowhere. This month, the Senate rejected a request for $18 billion that was part of a package including sharp cuts to legal immigration and permission for young immigrants to stay in the country after they were temporarily shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Trump berated Curiel during the campaign for his handling of fraud allegations against now-defunct Trump University, suggesting the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage reflected a bias.

Curiel mentioned his Indiana roots in his 101-page ruling on the wall when he cited another native of the state, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in another case that courts should not make policy judgments.

“The court cannot and does not consider whether the underlying decisions to construct border barriers are politically wise or prudent,” Curiel wrote.

Curiel wrote that the law certainly “is not a model of legislative precision” and that both sides made plausible arguments, preventing him from making a clear finding that the administration overreached.

The administration has issued three waivers since August, two to build in parts of California and one in part of New Mexico. President George W. Bush’s administration issued the previous five waivers, allowing the government to quickly extend barriers to about one-third of the border.

The Center for Biological Diversity said in its lawsuit that the waiver authority cannot be interpreted to last forever. California argued that it expired in 2008, when Homeland Security satisfied congressional requirements at the time on how much wall to build.

The judge declined to second-guess the administration’s findings that waivers were issued in areas of “high illegal entry,” a requirement set by Congress. The advocates argued that dramatic declines in border arrests undermined those findings.

During arguments this month, the judge peppered both sides with questions about the law’s meaning. He showed strong interest in a requirement tacked on in late 2007 for Homeland Security to consult other federal agencies, state and local governments, Indian tribes and property owners to minimize the impact of construction, which challengers said the administration failed to do.

Curiel said in his ruling that the law’s lack of specifics prevented him for concluding that the administration failed to properly consult others.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which sued along with the state of California and three advocacy groups, said it would appeal. Construction can proceed for now.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “We will evaluate all of our options and are prepared to do what is necessary to protect our people, our values, and our economy from federal overreach.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund said it may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. The Sierra Club said the environmental and other reviews are critical to protecting border communities, but the group didn’t discuss its next step.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley welcomed the decision, saying Congress granted authority to build a wall without delay and that the administration is pleased it can continue “this important work vital to our nation’s interests.”

Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton added, “Simply put, walls work.”

The decision came days after construction began on a 30-foot (9.1-meter) high barrier in Calexico, California, the administration’s first wall project outside of eight prototypes in San Diego that were completed in October and are intended to guide future construction. Both projects carry a relatively small price tag and were funded last year.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

U.S. judge rejects lawsuit seeking to stop Trump border wall

By Dan Levine
February 27, 2018

A U.S. judge on Tuesday sided with President Donald Trump’s administration and rejected an attempt by the state of California and environmental groups to stop the government from building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

The lawsuit filed in a San Diego federal court alleged that Trump’s proposed wall violates federal environmental standards, as well as constitutional provisions regarding the separation of powers and states’ rights.

The plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to stop the administration from pursuing the barrier until it demonstrates compliance with environmental laws.

The wall, a key item for Trump’s political base of supporters, has become a sticking point in talks to keep alive a federal program that protects from deportation young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

In his latest budget proposal to Congress, Trump requested $23 billion for border security, most of it for building the wall.

Curiel said his decision on Tuesday was not based on whether the underlying decisions to construct the wall “are politically wise or prudent.” Rather, Curiel said the Trump administration had not exceeded its legal authority in pursuing the project.

In a statement, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Devin O‘Malley said it is pleased the government can continue with the wall.

“Border security is paramount to stemming the flow of illegal immigration that contributes to rising violent crime and to the drug crisis, and undermines national security,” he said.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, meanwhile, said in a statement his office remained opposed to the border wall and would evaluate its options.

“A medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border simply does not belong in the 21st century,” Becerra said.

Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto postponed plans for the Mexican leader’s first visit to the White House, after a testy phone call in which Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of the wall.

Trump accused Curiel of bias during the 2016 presidential campaign based on the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican ancestry. At the time, Curiel had been overseeing a separate lawsuit involving Trump University.

In his ruling on the wall, Curiel cited “fellow Indiana native Chief Justice [John] Roberts” to argue that it is not the court’s place to make policy judgments.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

A Dream Re-Routed: Deported Maryland Brothers Seek Options, Play on After Being Banished

Sports Illustrated
By Ben Teitelbeum and Priya Desai
February 27, 2018

Nestled in the colorful mountain village of San Marcos, Nicaragua, past narrow potholed streets and rusted stop signs and scraggy stray dogs, a satellite campus of Florida’s Keiser University feels like any college in the states. Students breeze through a grassy quad dotted with religious statues, relics of the site’s monastic past. At lunchtime, the raucous cafeteria exudes that unmistakable scent of ambiguous meat. Smartphones are as prevalent as schoolbooks.

Afternoon soccer practice appears equally ordinary. The team of about 30 boys stretches languidly in the sticky heat, then runs through ball control drills and scrimmages punctuated by friendly trash talk in the players’ native Spanish. And Lizandro Claros Saravia, a star freshman defender on scholarship, seems to belong.

But this is all foreign to Claros Saravia, who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., playing for the elite Bethesda Soccer Club. It’s not just that the field has no lights and practice ends when the sun goes down. Or that orange cones stand in for painted white lines on the overgrown grass.

It’s that six months ago, Claros Saravia was on his way to Louisburg College in North Carolina, also on a soccer scholarship. It was meant to be a pit stop on the road to a high-level Division I program. But then, unexpectedly, he got deported. And barring a miracle, he won’t be allowed back in the U.S. for at least 10 years.

Lizandro Emmanuel Claros Saravia was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Jan. 25, 1998, the youngest of four siblings. His father, Jose, moved to America when Lizandro was 1, trying to help his family escape the violence that wracks his home country. Jose first landed in California, then eventually settled in Germantown, Maryland, working construction. The rest of the family joined in waves, with Lizandro and his brother, Diego, four years his elder, coming last in 2009.

But the brothers did not slip into the U.S. unnoticed. Lizandro and Diego were caught by customs officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport, trying to enter the country with fraudulent passports and visas. They were issued a notice to appear in immigration court, but they were allowed, at least temporarily, to stay.

“They’ve always been good kids,” Jose says, speaking in halting Spanish as he fights back tears. “When they came here, we both wanted to put them in a sports academy so they could stay busy after school, so they wouldn’t get into problems here. … That’s what I wanted, that they do the right thing here, without any problems, and that’s how they were, right up until the last day they were here.”

Every child in the Claros Saravia household played soccer—uniformed photos line the staircase in their modest townhouse—but at first, Lizandro balked.

“When I got to the U.S., I didn’t care about soccer, I didn’t care about anything,” says Lizandro, the only member of his family who speaks English without a noticeable accent. “I really wanted to go back to El Salvador. And so I just started eating a lot and I got pretty chubby.”

Talk to his family and friends, and you learn he’s not being self-deprecating. A former Bethesda coach, unprompted, echoes the term ‘chubby,’ and his oldest brother, Jonathan, laughingly says Lizandro was fat. But Lizandro, like his siblings, possessed natural talent, and he quickly began growing into both his body and his new home.


How a High School Soccer Team United a Racially Divided Town

In ninth grade, Lizandro joined the Bethesda Soccer Club, one of the premier programs in the United States, under the supervision of coach Matt Ney. Bethesda’s most successful alumni include Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem, the Portland Timbers’ Jeremy Ebobisse and U.S. internationals such as Bill Hamid, Freddy Adu and Joe Gyau, and 15 players from Lizandro’s team are playing in college. At Bethesda, “if you got hurt in practice, it’s because it was a good practice,” says Lizandro.

While he was talented enough, Lizandro initially struggled to balance the demands of daily grueling training sessions with the rest of life as a typical 14-year-old.

“I remember the first year I wanted to quit, man. It was too much. Everyday practices and then homework and no time for myself,” Lizandro recalls. “But then, I just thought about it and I was like, ‘My parents have done all of this for me and I’m just going to throw it away like that? I’m not going to do it.’”

Four years later, Lizandro was a sinewy 6-foot-1 center back with a high school diploma and a college scholarship. What he still didn’t have, though, was official U.S. documentation.

Wherever you fall on immigration policy, it’s undeniable that Lizandro himself, from the time he landed in America as a homesick 10-year-old, did everything right. And it’s ironic that the source of Lizandro’s American dream was ultimately the impetus for his expulsion.

Lizandro thought it was but a formality. He had sent U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) a copy of his Louisburg scholarship to keep the agency apprised of his movements. He and Diego had a regular ICE check-in scheduled for August 16, but Lizandro had to be down in North Carolina by then, beginning his freshman season. In response, ICE asked the brothers to come in earlier.

“I thought it was so it wouldn’t interrupt my school,” says Lizandro. “So we said yes. I mean, nothing had happened, so we thought it was going to be a normal day.”

On July 28, a rainy Friday, Lizandro and Diego went in. ICE agents said they needed to interview the brothers further about their circumstances.

“They took us to a back room and there were a lot of people in that back room,” remembers Lizandro. “Like a lot of people.”

Lizandro thinks they were all being consigned to detention, eventually to be deported. He doesn’t know for sure.

“We waited for like two hours, and they came out and they just said that they couldn’t let us go because they couldn’t let me go to another state and leave [Diego],” Lizandro says. “If they needed to catch us one day, it was going to be harder on them.

“I was calm at first because Monday came by. And then [people in detention] told us that on Mondays, only on Mondays, Salvadorans will get deported. And so Monday came by and nothing happened, so we thought, ‘Oh, O.K., we’re going to be here a couple more days.’ And then on Wednesday, they came in and took us out of jail, and then we thought we were going to be, ‘We out,’ but no. We asked the officers and they said that we were going to the airport and that we were going to get deported that day.”

Under the Obama administration, Lizandro and Diego would have been a low priority for deportation. They had clean records, Diego was employed and Lizandro was getting an education. Donald Trump had been inaugurated seven months earlier, though, escorted by proclamations of securing the border and putting “America First.”

As Washington wrestles over what to do about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), it’s worth noting that Lizandro and Diego were not part of the 800,000 so-called Dreamers whose legal status has been challenged by the Trump administration. To receive protection, Dreamers had to arrive in the U.S. before 2007, two years before the brothers reached the country.

Lizandro says he’s “not really into politics,” and he refuses to connect the dots between Trump’s election and his deportation. But his sister, Fatima, who is a recipient of DACA, thinks “it changed when the new person came into the office. Everything changed. I’ll say that some people discriminate [against] Spanish people and maybe because my brother got a scholarship, that’s the reason they found to deport them.”

But according to ICE, Lizandro and Diego long overstayed their welcome. They were issued a final order of removal in 2012, when Lizandro was 14, before being granted a temporary stay a year later. Two subsequent applications were denied.

“Since 2016, ICE deportation officers in Baltimore have instructed [Lizandro] to purchase a ticket for his departure,” the agency said in a statement. “Attempting to unlawfully enter the United States as a family unit or unaccompanied minor does not protect individuals from being subject to the immigration laws of this country.”

Even in the era of Trump, ICE claims to “focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” but Lizandro and Diego walked into their lap.

While the brothers were held in detention, their Bethesda teammates organized a rally on their behalf in front of Homeland Security headquarters. The Claros Saravia family retained the services of a lawyer through CASA de Maryland, a Latino and immigration advocacy-and-assistance organization. All to no avail.

Lizandro and Diego were whisked away on August 2, without being allowed to give their family a hug goodbye. It was a Wednesday, five days after they were arrested and the same day that Lizandro was supposed to arrive at Louisburg for preseason practice.

It’s mid-November in San Marcos, and a ceiling fan circulates the stuffy air in Lizandro’s bedroom. His twin cot lies between his two roommates’ on the ground floor of a Spanish-style villa that houses nine Keiser students.

There’s a half-open suitcase at the foot of Lizandro’s bed, filled with clothes that he hates putting away. Lizandro has no posters on the wall, no pictures on a nightstand. He eschews avoidable reminders of home and of the stereotypical American college life he never got to lead.

“I feel like I’ll never be able to adapt normally if I keep bringing stuff from [home],” Lizandro says. “Like, it’s just going to be harder on me.”

Lizandro and Diego have been at Keiser for three months. They were originally deported back to El Salvador, where they stayed with aunts and an uncle in a small village outside Jucuapa.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Lizandro told The Washington Post at the time. “I feel like in this country, I don’t have a future.”

A couple weeks later, they were on the move yet again. Keiser had heard their story, felt compassionate and extended a hand.

Back in Maryland, the Claros Saravia family was “really happy and excited” for the brothers to relocate to Nicaragua, on account of El Salvador having among the highest homicide rates in the world. But they weren’t ready to come to Keiser, to them a random college in a random country. Yes, El Salvador had its drawbacks, but at least there was family and familiarity.

“I could go to any country and you could give me the best education,” Lizandro says. “But if I’m not close to my family, if I’m not where I want to be, it’s just not normal.”

The difficulty of the transition was exacerbated by Lizandro and Diego’s identity uncertainty. They weren’t sure how to define themselves when they got to Nicaragua, caught between feeling both American and Salvadoran, unable to embrace either part of their identity.

“We couldn’t say that we were from USA,” says Diego. “We’re not [U.S.] citizens, but we can’t say that we’re from El Salvador ‘cause we don’t even know the place.”

Lizandro has a quiet energy about him, a forceful composure that draws you in. Neither brother is gregarious, at least not in this setting, but Lizandro cuts through his stoicism with a forthcoming willingness to talk. Diego is more reticent, his eyes frequently darting away from the conversation, looking down. Both, though, were unflinchingly polite.

According to their sister, their true personalities are the opposite. Diego is “a fun person. He likes to joke around,” says Fatima. Lizandro, meanwhile, “is a serious person. Like he makes jokes and then gets serious again.”

When asked what he misses the most about America, Lizandro mentions both his baby nephew and Chipotle, which he believes is the “best food in the U.S.” The brothers’ parents have instructed them to discuss how they’re feeling, to make sure the other is all right. But they don’t speak openly about their emotions together.

“I feel like he’s going through the same thing I’m going through,” Lizandro says, “So I feel like he knows.”

If he could do it all over again, Lizandro would not have shown up at the ICE agency back in July, in consideration of his brother more than himself.

“At first I used to blame it on myself ‘cause I was the one who sent that letter, I was the one who was going to college and my brother had nothing to do with it, and just because he was there in the process with me he was also a victim,” says Lizandro, his voice wavering.

“I used to be like, ‘I’m sorry man, I know it was all on me. I know I’m the one who f***ed up. We shouldn’t have went there.’ But later on he was just like, ‘No, we’re brothers and we’re in this together and we’re here together.’”

Lizandro concedes that he might have faced “full depression” were he stuck in Nicaragua alone. And while he’s still not adapted to his new normal, he’s at least trying to embrace it. Discussing his attempts make the best of his situation, Lizandro talks of “things happening for a reason” and “taking advantage of opportunities.”

Lizandro does sound genuine, although it’s hard not to wonder if those clich├ęs have been rehearsed, not for anyone else’s sake, but for Lizandro’s own.

“I mean there is nothing I can do now,” he says, “so it’s just a matter of getting used to being here and doing the best that I can.”

Enter the Claros Saravia house in Germantown, and nothing immediately seems out of place. The brothers’ upstairs bedrooms are just like they left them, and you almost expect the boys to come home any minute. Lizandro’s ex-girlfriend drew daisies on his walls; they haven’t faded.

“I don’t even dare go in their rooms, because those bedrooms give me so much sadness,” says their mother, Lucia. “The house is really empty, lonely.”

A poster declaring “Our family is a circle of strength & love” holds court in the living room, amid varied Christian symbols and dozens of family photos.

Lucia spreads even more photos across the dining room table. There’s chubby Lizandro, smiling alongside his brothers. She recalls watching them play soccer, says how proud she is that they “dedicated so much to sports.” Lucia grabs a vitamin bottle from the side of the table and eyes it as if she sees reflections of her sons.

“They never wanted to take the vitamins,” she says. “I always have them. I feel like I’m always waiting for them.”

The family is glad that the boys settled at Keiser, that they’re safe and getting an education. Lucia takes solace in their studies. Diego, who had been working as a car mechanic in the states, is studying software engineering, and he’s been telling Lucia that he plans to buy her a house someday. They all agree with Lizandro that it would’ve been more difficult had he been deported alone.

“I think they’re getting used to it, but they’re not happy,” says Fatima. “And I can see through their eyes that they’re not happy.”

Soccer once was Lizandro’s redemption. Now it’s his refuge.

“It’s literally all that I had when I came here,” he says. “When I’m on the field, when I’m with the ball, there’s nothing. No problems. I’m back home where I’m supposed to be. Like nothing. And it’s all about the game at that moment.”

Both Lizandro and Diego look visibly at peace with a ball at their feet. Lizandro, taller and lither, glides across the pitch, while the stockier Diego moves with a more staccato burst.

Still, Lizandro admits that the level of play and commitment at Keiser don’t compare to that at Bethesda. He says the team rarely practices with a full squad, with homework and headaches cited as reasons to miss training. Compare that to his former club, where “you’ve got to be in bed, in a hospital bed, if you don’t want to go to practice.”

According to Lizandro, this Keiser teammates are also mostly soft on the field. “Here, if you barely touch them, ‘Ah, don’t touch me. It hurts,’” he says.

When Lizandro’s Bethesda teammates and coaches describe his playing style, it’s clear why this bothers him. Coach Ney calls him a “physical, imposing kid” who plays like a bull let out of a cage.

Foster McCune, a freshman at Georgetown University, delineates two Lizandros: the “caring, soft-spoken dude” and the intense competitor who was known for “screaming and yelling to make sure we’re all fired up and keeping us going.”

McCune is currently leading the life Lizandro was supposed to. In early December, after Georgetown was upset by SMU in the second round of the NCAA tournament, he takes daily study breaks to kick a ball around with his teammates. Finals are approaching, but McCune’s schedule is relatively light, and he isn’t concerned.

Although McCune went to St. Albans, an all-boys prep school, whereas Lizandro attended public Quince Orchard High School, they now refer to each other as “brothers.” McCune is certain that Lizandro “would have made waves in the NCAA and the soccer world because he was a super impactful player.”

McCune says they text pretty regularly, though the level of connection clearly has changed.

“We do talk from time to time, but it’s not the same, you know?” Lizandro says. “It’s like they have their lives. They’re in college. They’re stressed. They have soccer. They have a lot to do. So it’s not really like we talk everyday or we are in contact all the time.”

Meanwhile, Lizandro and Diego are becoming closer with their teammates at Keiser. They recently spent a weekend in San Juan del Sur, an iconic party town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Lizandro, like a quintessential college kid, plays coy when asked about the trip, simply saying it was “amazing.”

It’s Diego’s 23rd birthday, and practice is interrupted by the delivery of a black forest cake to the field. The team sings “Happy Birthday,” in English, as Diego smiles sheepishly. The boys consider eating it immediately, before better sense kicks in.

Dusk falls, and scrimmage begins. Lizandro and Diego helm the back line on one side of the pitch. Lizandro, wearing a blue Bethesda jersey, barks out occasional orders in his baritone, seeming to position his fellow defenders or alert them to threats. During the hour-long scrimmage, they only face a few chances on goal, while their attackers net a handful the other way.

At one point, Lizandro clatters into an opposing midfielder streaking down the wing. He stays down for a minute, as thunderclouds start to gather overhead, before brushing himself off and continuing about his business. He hasn’t lost his physicality.

Lizandro and Diego are exploring the possibility of playing professionally in Nicaragua or Colombia, but Ney calls them “wild dreams.” They’re also looking into the idea of college in Canada, which might afford them improved options down the road.

At Keiser, Lizandro’s major is still undecided. As is his mind about what the future might hold.

“For me personally, it’s not really a plan in the future,” he says. “I don’t think about that yet. I’m just trying to focus on getting my education, graduating, and then from there, seeing where I can go.”

He picks up steam.

“Because, I mean, I had my whole future planned out in the U.S. I was going to go to college. Get an education. Go to a lower division for two years and then try to go to a Division I school… And then I come to a country where, O.K., I finish my education, now what do I do? Where do I go? Where do I get a job? So, yeah, I’m not yet in the process to think about the future, ‘cause I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

As far as Lizandro and Diego’s prospects of coming back to America, right now they look bleak. Even if Congress passes immigration reform, paving a pathway to citizenship for America’s undocumented, it’s too late for the brothers.

“It’s not going to happen in this administration, no matter what,” says Ney, who has become an advocate for the Claros Saravia family.

“You look at a kid like Lizandro. And Diego. And despite the fact that they came here at 10 and 14, despite the fact that they have no criminal record, despite the fact that they have been vital contributors to our community, they were deported. And how is that just? I don’t know.”

Foster calls Lizandro and Diego “great people that were doing great things in this country that benefited a ton of people and impacted a ton of people that were wrongfully taken away.”

Back in Germantown, Lizandro and Diego’s family speaks less forcefully. They’ve reacted more with sorrow than anger or injustice. And the hope they hold onto can’t be litigated in Washington.

“I hope God creates that miracle and brings them both here,” says Lucia.

Lizandro doesn’t consider divine intervention. He’s focused on doing whatever he can—physically, mentally, emotionally—to make each day worth living.

After practice, the team retreats to the cafeteria and finally dives into Diego’s cake. Lizandro thanks us for coming.

“Even if it doesn’t help us,” he had mentioned the day before, “hopefully it helps someone else in the future.”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com