Nearly three years ago former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton issued a memo directing agents to replace the rubber stamp in deportation cases with common sense.
Unfortunately, not all ICE directors seem to have gotten the memo.
Take the case of Luis Nicasio-Padilla, an undocumented immigrant in who lives in northern Ohio. Luis’ wife is a legal immigrant and his three children are United States citizens. Luis works hard, provides for his family—including two children with serious medical issues—owns a home, pays his taxes, and is a talented musician who performs locally in a Mariachi band.
And Luis has tried best to play by the rules of a dysfunctional and unforgiving immigration system. With his wife’s sponsorship he applied for and received immigrant visa classification by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. But, because of the antiquated and inadequate visa system he has been stuck waiting for his green card in a seemingly interminable “legal immigration line”.
In the meantime ICE, another bureau of the Department of Homeland Security, charged Luis with deportation and sent him to an immigration judge. With no immediate way to comply with the law Luis, despite his immigrant visa classification, found himself at the wrong end of a deportation order. For the past year and a half Luis—despite having been approved for immigration by USICS, has had to report to ICE to prepare for his deportation.
To be sure Luis has dutifully complied with the arduous demands made on him by ICE which include the weekly hour and half trip to the ICE Cleveland office and frequent contact with enforcement agents. It’s all worth it if he has a chance at legal immigration status and the ability to go to sleep each night without fearing arrest, detention, deportation and separation from his family.
But Adducci has other ideas.
Last week she abruptly, and with precious little explanation, refused to extend Luis’ request to remain in the U.S. with his wife and children. Never mind the compelling equities in Luis’ favor—his loving family, his excellent work record, his payment of taxes, his talent as a musician, or his approved visa petition. And never mind the fact that Luis would qualify for status under the bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate and pending in the House.
True, the hopes of millions of undocumented immigrants like Luis are currently being held hostage by House GOP leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on immigration reform. But that’s no excuse for ICE bureaucrats like Adducci to patently ignore policy directives from the Administration requiring that they enforce the immigration law with common sense by focusing on removing dangerous criminals and security risks, not hard working mothers and fathers.
Nor is it an excuse for the Obama Administration to fail to control ICE field directors like Rebecca Adducci who thumb their noses at national enforcement priorities and brazenly continue to tear apart American families at will.
The Obama administration must ensure that not one more American family is destroyed because a parent, sister, brother or grandparent is prevented by a dysfunctional policy from complying with the immigration law. If Congress refuses to act, the president must.
And he can start by demanding that ICE officers like Rebecca Adducci follow the guidelines he has already laid out.
Leopold is an Ohio based immigration attorney, reform advocate and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He is currently representing Luis Nicasio-Padilla in his case.