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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, September 12, 2018

Martin immigration case shows family separation doesn't just happen at the border

TC Palm (Opinion)
By Gil Smart
September 11, 2018

If you want to get a better idea of how immigration enforcement works — and doesn’t — meet Roxana Hernandez.

Hernandez, 24, lives in Miami-Dade County with her three kids. Originally from Guatemala, she fled persecution and came to the United States. She has no papers; depending on your ideological bent, she’s either “undocumented” or “illegal.”

Regardless, she led a peaceful life in South Florida. That began to change last April, when she was ticketed for speeding and driving without a license on Interstate 95 in western Martin County.

Two months later she returned to Martin County, figuring she would pay the fines. Instead, she was arrested and sent to jail.

Then, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked her up and transferred her to an ICE detention center in Pompano Beach, where she remained until late August before she was finally allowed out on bond.

During her incarceration, her kids stayed with their paternal grandparents and were allowed to see her once a week for 60 to 90 minutes.

“Family separation is not just happening at the border,” said her attorney, Jonathan Urrutia of the Legal Aid Service of Broward County.

And, at first glance, it all seems like yet another inhumane example of how immigration policy works in the age of Donald Trump. But this case is a little too complex to be boiled down to some partisan morality tale.

Maybe, just like the issue of immigration itself.

Here’s the backstory: On April 17, documents show Hernandez was ticketed by the Florida Highway Patrol. She was ordered to appear before Martin County Judge Darren Steele on May 24.

According to court documents, she never showed up — and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.

Hernandez did return to pay her fines on June 21. Authorities discovered the warrant and arrested her.

“We didn’t scoop her up because she was here to pay a ticket,” said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder. “She came in to pay the ticket perhaps not knowing she had the warrant.”

As is the case with everyone who is arrested, she was asked to fill out a questionnaire which, among other things, asked about immigration status.

“If someone self-reports they are a citizen of another country and they are here illegally, we notify ICE,” Snyder said.

ICE was interested in Hernandez; a deportation order had been issued by a judge in 2014 after she missed a hearing. Urrutia said she missed that hearing because she was in labor with her second child.

ICE issued a “detainer” — a request for local law enforcement to hold a person for up to 48 hours until the feds can come pick him or her up.

Hernandez had scraped up the $750 for a bond that should have secured her release. But her jailers wouldn’t let her go.

Urrutia sent Snyder a letter saying the sheriff was overstepping his authority: “This is settled law,” Urrutia told me last week. “An ICE detainer doesn’t give local authorities the power to detain people after they’re supposed to be released.”

Urrutia is right: federal courts have indeed ruled detainers are unconstitutional. But many, if not most, law enforcement agencies around the country continue to honor them.

That includes the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, which gets — and honors — an average of about five ICE detainers per month.

“There’s actually an ICE transfer station here in Martin County, so ICE has never left us hanging,” said Snyder.

Once Hernandez was transferred to the Broward facility, she sought to post bond, but the request was denied. Finally, Urrutia said, “they agreed to give her a 100 percent cash bond of $20,000” — a very high amount usually reserved for serious criminals.

Hernandez didn’t have the money to pay it but the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, was able to raise the funds.

In an interview with the Miami New Times, Hernandez said her daughter had been afraid to come visit her in jail, worried that she, too, would be locked up.

The case has been covered by several left-leaning outlets, including the New Times and ThinkProgress. Snyder seemed clearly irked by the coverage and the suggestion he and his deputies are a bunch of hard-liners.

“I don’t consider myself a hawk or a dove on immigration,” he said. “My balancing act is public safety. I’m not an organ of the federal government … I’m trying to walk a fine line.”

But unquestionably, Urrutia is correct that even this “fine line” results, sometimes, in family separation.

“The outrage over what’s been happening at the border makes sense, but this has been happening for a while,” Urrutia said.

Indeed, in the end what’s extraordinary about this case is how commonplace it really is.

Urrutia cited a recent immigration raid in Sumner, Texas, where 160 people were arrested.

“These people all have families,” he said. “Many have established roots in this country, they have kids — but they’re not safe.”

As for his client, Hernandez now has a pending petition to become a legal permanent resident, and Urrutia thinks her chances are good.

“This is someone who thought she was doing the right thing by taking care of a traffic ticket” in Martin County, he said.

“I don’t think it ever crossed her mind she might be arrested.”

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

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