The residents of Baltimore and their representatives on the City Council are celebrating a big win this week. But it’s nothing to do with curbing their record setting murder rate or fixing their imploding budget. The festivities center around a court order resulting in the release of Serbando Rodriguez and Segundo Paucar from detention. A team of pro bono lawyers had worked to convince a judge to spring the two men, despite the fact that ICE had determined they were in the country illegally and scheduled them for deportation. (Baltimore Sun)
The immigration arrests of a barber and a small business owner in February galvanized many in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood.
Neither man had a criminal record. Protesters hit the streets. Lawyers snapped into action. Nervous friends and family took to prayer.
Today, after advocacy lawyers succeeded in arguing their cases before immigration judges, both men have been released from the Frederick County Detention Center and reunited with their friends and family.
“They could have easily been removed from the country, but they have viable cases,” said Michelle N. Mendez, a senior attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network who represented both men. “This is why we shouldn’t be doing these fast-tracked deportations. If the person has access to competent counsel, it makes a big difference.”
This doesn’t mean that either of the men are off the hook entirely. They’ve simply been released on their own recognizance while the appeals are heard in court and they will be required to check in regularly with ICE in the meantime. But is this really a reason to celebrate?
As we so often see with media coverage of these stories, the Baltimore Sun goes to great lengths to paint a sympathetic picture. One of the detainees is described as the hard working guy who cuts hair and repairs bicycles while just wanting to “help others in the community.” The other is a “small business owner.” What’s not to love, right? You have to dig down a number of paragraphs before you find out something else about them. Rodriguez wasn’t just caught up by accident as part of some Trump-fueled, cruel hearted raid. He’d already been deported once and was wanted for illegally reentering the country. Paucar had been caught by ICE more than a decade ago and had a standing order for deportation but had simply disappeared off their radar.
The reason given for the fresh look at these cases was rather odd as well. Rodriguez claims that he was fleeing “gang violence” in Honduras when he left. Not that he was specifically a target as a public official or something, but just that there’s a lot of that sort of violence in Honduras. Okay, so let me get this straight. You were fleeing a problem of gang violence in your home country and you fled to… Baltimore?
But even if that’s the case, people fleeing persecution and immediate danger in their home countries can apply for refugee status or any number of other available programs. He didn’t follow any of those steps but rather chose to continue living here as an illegal alien. If the courts are starting to buy stories such as this we’re in a lot of trouble.
Of course, we’re still talking about Baltimore here, so it’s all in keeping with the public mood and climate in the municipal government. Keep in mind that back in March the City Council was issuing a request for ICE to stop arresting illegal aliens who weren’t wanted for “serious crimes.” But that’s not how it works, folks. The only reason we haven’t been regularly arresting those who don’t commit other crimes in addition to violating our federal immigration laws was that a lack of resources forced us to prioritize the cases we pursue. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the illegal aliens had permission to be here. We just didn’t have the manpower to pursue them and they knew it. But when we do happen to catch them, they’re still eligible to be ejected. And that’s how it’s supposed to remain.