Despite the best efforts by immigration advocates and others, Ardany Rosales Lemus was recently deported. Lemus was pulled over in Phoenix last December for a traffic violation and was quickly placed in deportation proceedings. During his detainment, he missed his wedding and the birth of his youngest child.
Lemus had originally come to the United States back in 2005 to escape persecution in Guatemala. His work in Guatemala included encouraging teens and young adults to stay out of gangs. Based on his work, he was often threatened by the more powerful gangs in the country and even beaten. When arriving in the U.S., he had requested asylum but was denied. Now, not only has Lemus been separated from his family, but many fear for his safety in Guatemala.
In the days leading up to his deportation, thousands of people had signed petitions requesting that Lemus not be deported and that he be allowed to return to his family. Dozens of individuals even spent the night outside of the Florence Service Processing Center hoping to stop his deportation.
According to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), deportation proceedings are usually enacted when the individual poses a high-risk to national security or has committed serious crimes. However, Lemus did not fit into this category. In cases such as this, the government has the authority to use prosecutorial discretion. This discretion is utilized when the crime is one of a less-serious nature and the person at issue is not considered to be a threat to public safety or national security.
Furthermore, it is alleged that this discretion is influenced by a variety of other factors including whether the defendant has ties to the community, how long he has been in the U.S., and family considerations. One would think that Lemus would be a perfect example for the use of prosecutorial discretion.
However, ICE did not feel this way. In fact, ICE has recently issued the following statement related to Lemus' deportation:
“ICE is focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, recent border crossers and immigration fugitives who have failed to comply with final orders of removal issued by the nation's immigration courts. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering the totality of the circumstances in an individual case.”
Unfortunately, this issued statement does little to help make sense of why the choice was made to deport Lemus. His deportation seems completely contradictory to the reasons for deportation as stated by ICE.
In addition, the individuals who were outside the Florence Service Processing Center claim that ICE agents intentionally distracted them by using a decoy bus in order to take Lemus through a back exit of the detention center. This further angered the group and many have vowed to continue to advocate for Lemus and his family.
It is situations like these that remind me why I have devoted my practice to immigration defense. Someone like Mr. Lemus should not have been deported under these circumstances. While the country did not see immigration reform get passed in 2013, I hope that 2014 will bring about the proper change and allow for relief for individuals like Mr. Lemus.