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5/17: ICE arrests two undocumented workers trying to get to construction job on military base
Released 12 June 2017  By Gabe Ortiz - Daily Kos

ICE arrests two undocumented workers trying to get to construction job on military base

Gabe Ortiz - Daily Kos
Wednesday May 17, 2017

Two undocumented immigrant workers are facing deportation after security officials at Travis Air Force Base contacted ICE when the two men could not provide valid Social Security numbers to get through a security check for a construction job. Hugo Mejia and Rodrigo Nuñez—neither of whom have criminal records, according to their attorney—both say they were not aware that the hospital where they were supposed to put up sheet rock was on a military base.

“Mejia told CBS13 he gave security his legal California issued driver’s license number,” but that Travis Air Force Base called ICE after finding out they were undocumented, and both were arrested and detained. Now, Congressman Jared Huffman and more than 100 community members have voiced their support for the men, one of whom has three U.S. citizen kids. “This is the kind of inhumane deportation that even President Trump has said we weren’t going to see,” Rep. Huffman said:

“The first thing that came to my mind was why me?” Mejia said in Spanish during a phone interview with this news organization from the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, where he is being held.

“I’ve been here for 17 years and my record is excellent. I’ve never done anything to anyone. My bills are paid on time, I have a clean record, we’ve never asked the government for help.”

A spokeswoman for the air force base confirmed the incident in a prepared statement, saying, “As part of normal protocol, Security Forces personnel entered the individuals’ information into the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which identified them as undocumented immigrants. Security Forces then telephoned Immigration Customs Enforcement, who confirmed the status of the individuals and responded to take custody.”

But according to the Mercury News, “it’s unclear if employees or officials at military bases across the U.S. are required to report undocumented immigrants who visit the bases to ICE. A spokeswoman for Travis did not say if there are any such policies in place or if the individual who reported Mejia and Nuñez to ICE used his own discretion.”

According to Mejia, the individual who reported him and Nuñez to ICE told them “they would likely only be questioned and then let go. They had clean records, he told them. ‘But we knew that ICE never lets anyone go,’ said Mejia. ‘It seemed as if he just decided to call ICE in that moment, on a whim. He didn’t know what to expect or how the process worked.’” Now both could very well likely be ripped from their lives and homes.

“I used to see news reports of so many cases, but you never think that it’s going to happen to you,” said Cristina, Nuñez’s wife.

The clock is ticking for both men, due to the fact that they have been placed in expedited deportation proceedings for re-entering the U.S. some 15 years ago after initial deportation:

Alisa Whitfield, an immigration attorney with Centro Legal de la Raza, a local nonprofit in Oakland, who is representing the men pro bono, has submitted a request for them to receive an interview with an asylum officer regarding their fear of returning to Mexico.

Because they are in reinstatement proceedings, they would have to prove that they would be extremely likely to be persecuted upon their return to Mexico in order to be granted protection from deportation.

If they were facing regular removal proceedings, they would be eligible to post a bond to leave the detention center, and fight their cases in immigration hearings, Whitfield said.

But there’s very little legal recourse for people in their situation, according to Srikantiah.

“The process usually ends very, very poorly for the person detained,” she said.

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