While the government continues to stand-off on the issue of immigration, thousands of immigrants wait in limbo for relief. The immigration detention centers across the country, including those in Florence and Eloy, Arizona, hold thousands of people waiting or fighting against deportation. Among the people facing the unknown are high schools students and even veterans.
Detained just before his high school graduation, a 19-year-old man now sits awaiting his fate in an Arizona detention facility. Jaime Rivas, born in El Salvador, came to the U.S. as a child in 2005. He was living in Colorado since he was 10-years-old. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claims Rivas was affiliated with a gang, which his supporters deny. Rivas was released after a month in detention, and was allowed to walk in his graduation ceremony. However, when Rivas and his now-wife Jenny were preparing to get married in October, instead Rivas was again picked up by immigration officials, and remains in detention. His family and classmates await a court decision to see if he will be granted a stay.
Even serving in the U.S. Army may not be enough to prevent someone from being deported. One New Jersey woman now fears that she may be deported to her birth country of Cuba. Victoria Yarborough came to the U.S. as an 11-year-old child. When she turned 18, she joined the U.S. Army. ICE issued a memo in 2011 that military service should be considered a positive factor in considering whether to prosecute deportation orders. Now, nearly 20 years later, she says she still fears she may be deported.
Another U.S. Army veteran was deported to his native country of Italy, after legally living in the U.S. for over 50 years. Arnold Giammarco was brought to the U.S by his parents when he was 4-years-old. He served in the army and national guard from 1976 to 1983. He had a green card to stay in the U.S. Later, he was later arrested and spent time in prison for drug possession. According to his family, after being released he got clean, found employment, got married, and became a father.
In 2011, Giammarco was detained by immigration officials for 18-months, before he was deported. It has been nearly three years since he was deported. He spoke little Italian when he left, and has eventually found part-time landscaping work. His elderly parents fear they may never see their son again. His wife and 5-year-old daughter continue to fight for his return. Now a clinic with Yale Law School has taken up his cause, to get his deportation reversed.
Yale Law professor, Michael Wishnie is working on Giammarco's case. “I think it's a shameful thing for the United States to take a man who has lived lawfully in this country for 50 years, who's raising a family, who's working productively, who volunteered for the army, served honorably. It's a shameful thing to deport him based on minor non-violent criminal convictions. It's a departure I think from our historic treatment of veterans,” said Wishnie.
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