CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Martín Esquivel-Hernandez's son, Alex, at a immigrant-rights rally in Beechview in September 2016.
A full voicemail box, more than 1,400 signatures, and dozens of letters all in support of releasing Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, a Pittsburgh resident and undocumented Mexican immigrant currently facing deportation. That is what has been sent to the Detroit regional office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Rebecca Adducci.
And, according to Guillermo Perez of the Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, there has been no response from Adducci. Perez says LCLAA has not only informed ICE of Esquivel-Hernandez’s support and his personal story
(he had no local criminal record other than two minor traffic violations, has three young children including a U.S. citizen son, and has been an advocate for Latino and immigrant rights
during his five years in Pittsburgh), but the agency has not responded to any of LCLAA’s outreach.
But Detroit ICE field office sent a comment to City Paper
last week, indicating they have every intention of deporting Esquivel-Hernandez
. “Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez has two misdemeanor convictions, one from 2012 and 2017, and federal authorities removed him to Mexico four times since 2011, with the latest removal taking place in 2012,” wrote ICE officials in an email to CP
on Jan. 9. “As a result, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has designated Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez’s case as a priority for immigration enforcement.”
Perez still doesn’t understand why ICE hasn't been in communication with him and his group. “We don't feel they have given any serious consideration to our requests,” says Perez.
To add insult to injury for LCLAA, ICE issued its comment to CP
while LCLAA was filing an official stay request for Esquivel-Hernandez, which included LCLAA having to purchase a $1,400 one-way plane ticket from Mexico, as required by the stay application.
Esquivel-Hernandez has garnered high-profile support throughout the campaign to keep him in the country, including from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) and Bishop David Zubik, of the Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Diocese. Now LCLAA and the advocates at the Thomas Merton Center are going over the Detroit ICE office's head and making their case to national ICE Director Sarah Saldaña.
“There is still time for ICE to do the right thing for the Esquivel family and Pittsburgh’s Latino community,” said Perez in a press release. “We need Director Saldaña to intervene and ensure ICE follows their own policy to reunite [Esquivel-Hernandez with his family.”
ICE officials responded to a request for comment from CP
and said, “We stand by our earlier statement and have nothing further to add at this time.” Esquivel-Hernandez is still being held in the Seneca County Jail in northwest Ohio, according to the online ICE detainer database.
“[Esquivel-Hernandez’s] deportation will serve no important federal interest, and instead causes injury to his family and the larger Pittsburgh community,” said Christina Castillo of the Thomas Merton Center in a press release.
Additionally, it appears ICE and the federal government is spending top dollar to deport immigrants like Esquivel-Hernandez. A Daily Mail Online
investigation showed that it costs ICE an average of $1,962 to remove an undocumented immigrant via ground and air transportation. In 2015, ICE spent $116 million to transport and remove immigrants from the U.S., sometimes using private jets or commercial airlines just to remove a single immigrant
. ICE is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Esquivel-Hernandez will allegedly be taken via a plane to Mexico, according to Perez.
Regardless, Perez says this is LCLAA’s and Esquivel-Hernandez’s advocates final push to keep him in the country, given the uncertain nature of President-elect Donald Trump's administration which begins Jan. 21. Perez believes there is hope for Esquivel-Hernandez because nothing in his record makes him a “priority for enforcement” under the DHS guidelines
for deportation that were issued in 2014.
“Given the new administration is going to begin on Friday,” says Perez, “this is our last best chance to get someone in a leadership office to intervene. … Our hope is with this final push, that somebody will look at this case, and say that [Esquivel-Hernandez] was detained under the [President Barack] Obama administration and they should comply with that administration's policy.”
For those interested in voicing their support for Esquivel-Hernandez, Perez says they can visit the "Bring Martin Home" website
and contribute an online letter.