published Monday, September 19th, 2011

Two teens are back with their families thanks to change in deportation policy

Luis Hernandez works on problems in 12th-grade math finance class at Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga. He was detained in a federal immigation center over the summer after a traffic stop in Whitfield County but was recently released after the Obama administration’s new guidelines to focus on deporting people who are criminals or who have criminal records.
Luis Hernandez works on problems in 12th-grade math finance class at Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga. He was detained in a federal immigation center over the summer after a traffic stop in Whitfield County but was recently released after the Obama administration’s new guidelines to focus on deporting people who are criminals or who have criminal records.
Photo by John Rawlston.

PENDING CASES

As of Aug. 31

• Memphis Immigration Court: 4,981

• Atlanta Immigration Court (also covers Alabama proceedings): 6,260

• Stewart Detention Facility Immigration Court: 647

Source: Executive Office for Immigration Review


FAST FACTS

• On Aug. 18, the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security announced the establishment of a joint working group with the Department of Justice. The group will work to make sure resources are focused on the highest immigration priorities, mainly those who pose a threat to public safety and national security, repeat immigration law violators and recent border entrants.

• The group will review 300,000 pending cases one by one.

• Those identified as "low priority" will be administratively closed and the subjects will be eligible to apply for a work permit.

• The group will issue guidance on prosecutorial discretion, including for cases that already have final orders of deportation.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

When Luis Hernandez talked to his mother and heard her crying, he got a bad feeling.

"I'm getting deported," thought the 18-year-old senior at Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga. He had been at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., for two months fighting to stay in the United States.

Instead, she told him he would be back with his family within a few days.

"I started crying," he said several weeks after his Aug. 23 release from the detention center. "It meant a lot."

Hernandez and Dalton, Ga., resident Pedro Morales were among the first nationwide whose cases were administratively closed after the Department of Homeland Security said it would focus deportation efforts on illegal immigrants who are violent criminals or repeat immigration law offenders.

Nationwide, there are about 300,000 pending removal cases to be reviewed. As of Aug. 31, almost 5,000 are pending in the Memphis Immigration Court and more than 6,000 in Atlanta, which includes Alabama, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

But a month after the Aug. 18 announcement, no one really knows how the new policy is being implemented or who really will benefit from it.

Who's Helped?

  • photo
    Joined by his mother, Veronica Arredondo, and his sister, Sharon Morales, Pedro Morales talks about being arrested during a traffic stop and turned over to immigration. He was released after new guidelines call for authorities to focus on deporting unauthorized immigrants with criminal background instead of teens who were brought here as children.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Basically, all is a little vague right now, which is also causing a lot of problems in the Latino community in particular, who believe the policy is more than what it is," said Charles Kuck, the attorney who represented both North Georgia teens.

Some people think it's an amnesty or they ask for a green card under the "Obama law."

"The lack of clarity, of movement [on this] from the administration is problematic," he added.

Lawyers and community members have heard of people being released under the new guidelines, but it all depends on the officer's discretion.

"At the most, several thousand people will benefit from this. The vast majority of people will not have their deportations canceled. It will be rare," Kuck said.

Homeland Security is working with the Department of Justice on the pending-case review and expects it to begin in the coming months.

In a June memo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said prosecutorial discretion should be used especially with veterans, longtime residents, minors, the elderly, women who are nursing or pregnant and victims of domestic violence, among others.

But even people who fit some of these categories are being denied relief, said Jack Richbourg, an attorney with the Siskind Susser firm in Memphis.

"I only had one case where I've asked, and they've denied my request, saying they are exercising their discretion to keep on prosecuting," he said.

His client is a woman who came to the United States when she was 6 years old, has no criminal convictions and is caring for her elderly parents, who are legal permanent residents.

"I see a big gap between what they are talking about in Washington and what they are doing here in Memphis," he said.

Opponents Speak

  • photo
    Luis Hernandez walks with classmate Russell Smith at Gordon Central High School in Calhoun on Thursday. Hernandez was turned over to ICE and detained over the summer after a traffic stop in Whitfield County, but was recently released after the Obama administration's announcement to focus on deporting people who have violent criminal records.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The administration's move also brought criticism from those who oppose illegal immigration.

"With complete disregard for the millions of unemployed Americans the policy will affect, the administration has already begun closing removal cases of noncriminal illegal aliens and allowing them to apply for work authorization," the Federation for American Immigration Reform said in a news release.

"These illegal aliens now have pseudo-legal status and, in spite of U.S. laws that dictate otherwise, no need to fear deportation under President Obama," it read. The organization submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents related to the announcement and the effects of the policy.

People whose cases are closed can apply for work permits, but that will also be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Kuck said Hernandez and Morales, who were brought to the U.S. by their parents from Mexico, are in limbo because their cases can be reopened at any time and they don't automatically get any benefits. His plan for the boys includes applying for work permits, but they aren't guaranteed to get them.

Doug Grammer, past chairman of the 9th Congressional District Republican Party, said the government should secure the border before it does anything else.

But if it's about prioritizing, he agrees violent criminal offenders should go first.

"Whether they committed a crime or not, I'm OK with them going back, but I also understand the difficulties of deporting many people," Grammer said. "That being said, anybody that commits a violent crime while being illegal ought to be deported. We don't need them; they are not contributing to society."

How They Got Here

  • photo
    Joined by his mother, Guadalupe Hernandez, and his father, Jose Luis Hernandez, Luis Enrique Hernandez, center, talks about being arrested during a traffic stop and turned over to U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was released after new guidelines call for authorities to focus on deporting unauthorized immigrants with criminal background instead of teens who were brought here as children.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hernandez and Morales were detained during separate traffic stops in Dalton that eventually landed them in jail with immigration holds.

The Morales family was celebrating Father's Day at a local restaurant. Pedro Morales, 19, didn't have a driver's license, but that night his father agreed to let him drive.

They took a different route to avoid a car accident, only to come across a road check.

Pedro Morales, who was brought to the United States by his parents when his was 7, was asked for a driver's license. As soon as he said he didn't have one, he was ordered out of the car and handcuffed.

That was the beginning of what became two of the hardest months of his life.

"I never thought something like this would happen to me," said the Whitfield Career Academy 2010 graduate. "I saw how all of my dreams of going to school got farther and farther away."

But he said he never gave up in fighting his case. Dalton is his home. It's where his family and his friends are.

He listens to rock music and to Tim McGraw. He wears boat shoes and Aeropostale shirts.

He was accepted to attend Georgia Northwestern Technical College to be a mechanic. There's black residue around his nails, a testament to a passion for fixing cars that began when he was 10 and watched his friend's dad working under the hood.

Hernandez and a friend were in Dalton to see the movie "Hangover 2." His friend, who was driving, was stopped for not having the lights on.

Hernandez, who arrived in America at age 2, didn't have any identification. He and his friend were booked and charged with possession of marijuana, a charge that his family and his attorney said was later dropped and helped guarantee his release.

The 18-year-old wrestler had never gotten in trouble before. In the county jail and later in the detention center, he was the youngest one there.

"I cried every day," he said, sitting between his parents in their living room. "This ain't a good place to be," he said of the jail.

Guadalupe Hernandez said she was afraid her son would be deported.

"He doesn't have anyone over there. He doesn't even know where he comes from. He doesn't know anyone," she said.

Luis said that during his detention he avoided going outside or looking at the sun because it reminded him of everything he couldn't do: wash the truck with his dad, wrestle with his little brother, eat his mother's enchiladas.

"I kept thinking I'm going to see my parents no more," he said.

At night, he would pray to the Virgen de Guadalupe, "Please give me another chance. I didn't do nothing wrong. Please let me be with my family again."

And he attributes his release to her.

What's Next?

  • photo
    Luis Hernandez listens during a literature class at Gordon Central High School in Calhoun on Thursday. He was turned over to ICE and detained over the summer after a traffic stop in Whitfield County, but was recently released after the Obama administration's announcement to focus on deporting people who have violent criminal records.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The joint working group is also supposed to issue guidelines to prevent, on a case-by-case basis, low-priority cases such as Hernandez and Morales' from entering the system.

Capt. Wes Lynch, who oversees the detention division at the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office, said the department hasn't received any official notifications or guidelines.

The sheriff's office is part of the 287 (g) program, which trains local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law. Lynch said the memorandum of understanding already says to focus resources on the most serious offenders, but it doesn't say not to process people.

"As far as we are concerned, we are processing people based on whether or not they are in the country illegally because that's the law we are supposed to be enforcing, and we are going to keep doing that because we are able to determine most of the serious offenders we get don't have a serious criminal history prior to that event," he said.

"I just think that it's not possible for us to determine an alien's public safety risk simply by looking at a criminal history," he added.

Greg Siskind, with the law firm in Memphis, said he's not too optimistic right now.

"Being realistic when I talk to clients ... [I'm] telling people don't expect too much change at this point," he said.

But despite the mixed reaction and expectations about what the Department of Homeland Security is going to do, for Pedro Morales it has meant a second chance.

"It changed my life forever," said the soft-spoken Morales. "It made me value what I have."

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about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
TSCinSFO said...

It's so obvious Obama cares more about illegal aliens and the Latino vote than Americans. 2012 can't come soon enough and the next GOP POTUS will just reverse this policy. It's disgusting and outrageous that our POTUS would grant work visas in his new policy to illegal aliens with millions of our own people out of work. Not only should Luis Hernandez and Pedro Morales be deported immediatley, ICE should be rounding up their entire illegal family and sending them back. If we would just ban birthright citizenship, mandatory E-Verify, and deny ALL benefits included not allowing illegals aliens to attend our schools, almost all would self deport overnight. The REALLY disgusting policy change is that ICE has been ordered not to deport pregnant illegal aliens all of which will drop anchor babies which will go on welfare for the next 18 years. As much as I hated GWB, Obama is doing even more damage to our country. I will NEVER understand the pro-amnesty crowd as they have no respect for our laws and put these uneducated peasants over our own people.

September 19, 2011 at 2 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

I agree TOTALLY with TSCinSFO above! The next President will reverse this policy and they WILL BE DEPORTED according to the FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWs we have on the books! It pisses me off to see Obama thumb his nose at the laws he doesnt want to enforce in hopes of getting votes....Issuing work VISAs when we dont have jobs for our own LEGAL CITIZENS! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!! If we dont stand up for ourselves we will be speaking Spanish before long..just drive down Rossville Blvd and look at all the businesses with "not a word of ENGLISH" on the bldg! Do these businesses hire Blacks or Whites? Nope! Discrimination? All I can say say is DONT GET TOO COMFORTABLE HERE Hernandez and Morales! And hopefully take Trevizo (reporter) with you!

September 19, 2011 at 6:07 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

I'm still waiting for the Times Free-Press to come out with a Spanish Language version because EVERY story you present is PRO ILLEGALs! Dont you realize TFP they dont spend their money on ENGLISH language anything? AND THEY ARE CRIMINALS! Need to check Trevizos status! But E-Verify will take care of that soon!

September 19, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

"The 18-year-old wrestler had never gotten in trouble before"...A wretler? that took up a spot on the team for a LEGAL citizen...your son or mine?

"He was accepted to attend Georgia Northwestern Technical College to be a mechanic"! Taking a spot at Northwest that a LEGAL citizen should have...your sons or mine?

Everyone against these criminals-that is why it is called ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION...they broke FEDERAL LAW...should check out www.numbersusa.com.....it is Free

September 19, 2011 at 6:49 a.m.

This shameless celebration of Obama doing an end run around federal immigration law is disgusting. This should be condemned not celebrated. It is shameful that we have people in this country now that find politics more important than the rule of law. Anything to retain illegal votes. Stand up America, 2012 is coming and it will be ugly if the progressives think they are going to lose.

September 19, 2011 at 9:20 a.m.
Veritas said...

Yet another ILLEGAL ALIEN SOB STORY from Perla "Propaganda" Trevizo, I agree with larwilb60, I expect the online edition to be published in Spanish in the not too distant future. The author of this PROPAGANDA fails to realize that the legal citizens of this country have had enough, we're not interested in her pro ILLEGAL ALIEN stories.

September 19, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
Skeptic101 said...

These kids didn't choose to live here. They're not felons. Would it seem fair to incarcerate your kid for a couple of months only because he was born to you?

September 19, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
tderng said...

close the freakin bordeers,then worry about the ones that are already here!!!!!Let them apply for work visa's and have a path to citizenship,but CLOSE THE FREAKIN BORDERS to keep more of them from coming in,along with terrorists and drug cartel members.

September 19, 2011 at 10:03 a.m.

Their parents chose for them. Their criminal parents. It is a shame kids have to suffer because their parents willfully break the law. These kids should also not be citizens of the U.S. The constitution should be clarified to prevent two illegals from coming across the border prego and dropping their anchors. It is a disgusting attempt to circumvent our immigration laws.

@skeptic101, The children could always be sent back to their country with their parents. Then they wouldn't suffer.

September 19, 2011 at 10:03 a.m.
XGSBoss said...

Pro amnesty? The last 2 republican presidents were more pro amnesty than President Obama. But continue your xenophobia. Tea is the new Kool-Aid.

September 19, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.
Wilder said...

Obama has to win states like Florida, with large Hispanic populations, and 27 electoral votes. He couldn't care less about the other Southern states, like Alabama, with 9 electoral votes, or South Carolina, with 8, or Georgia, with 15. He won't even bother campaigning in the South.

The Carpet Cartel's highly successful illegal alien recruiting campaign, in conjunction with national politics, has just driven the final nail in the coffin for Dalton - the town is officially ceded to Mexico. We are the East L.A. of the Southeast. Good luck in recruiting young and educated professionals to a third world slum.

By the way, another Carpet Cartel casuality is a feature journalist job at the Chattanooga Times. Perla would still be in El Paso, if not for them. There is a chain reaction effect on jobs, across the board, when you inundate a community with people from an alien culture, who speak an alien language.

September 19, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.

How is not wanting criminals in our country xenophobia? How is wanting people to follow our laws xenophobia? Your comment is typical of the "we can't win without the illegal vote" regressives. I agree though. The Bush family is pro amnesty and should be called down for it.

September 19, 2011 at 10:18 a.m.
onetinsoldier said...

If an illegal immigrant took your job, then he was probably the better worker. If an illegal immigrant is willing to work for less, then you should support a union to protect you from low wages. Only an ignorant person would feel threatened by uneducated foreigners willing to do menial work. Only a fool would blame the poor immigrant for trying to better his life, just as you would, if you were in his shoes, and at the same time vote for those who represent the very people that invited all of those illegal immigrants. There is no accounting for the way some of you think.

September 19, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.
Wilder said...

@onetinsoldier

You left out a few facts in your condemnation of local U.S. citizens. When the Carpet Cartel emerged as Dalton's sole economic base, the standards for employment for 90% of the jobs they produced were so low, that uneducated foreigners could meet them.

By ignoring our laws, and hiring uneducated and illegal foreigners, they could not only pay them less, they could avoid other costs, like compensation for injuries, which an illegal alien, under duress, would not likely pursue.

Once a sufficient number of non-English speaking illegal aliens relocated to Dalton, the entire community was paralyzed by the language barrier.

The next tier of Hispanics, whose only reason for moving to Dalton, was the large numbers of illegal aliens, didn't just take the menial carpet jobs - they displaced local citizens from thousands of higher level jobs, up to and including doctors and attorneys.

You left that part out...

September 19, 2011 at 12:47 p.m.
UjokinRIGHTQ said...

larwilb60 said... I agree TOTALLY with TSCinSFO above! The next President will reverse this policy and they WILL BE DEPORTED according to the FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWs

Not if the next president is a GOP. Remember Bush overwhelmingly invited them here in the first place. He even stood alongside then Mexico's President, Vicente Fox, and stated they, "illegals" do the jobs American's refuse to do. {just a reminder}

September 19, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
wtfobama said...

Why would any of the illegal immigrants go through the process of becoming legal citizens when there are no penalties for being illegal? I think "onetinsoldier" should look around with open eyes. Spend some time in New Mexico or Texas. Go look at the neighborhoods that these people live in. They are filthy! They don’t have any respect for anything or anyone. It doesn't cost money to keep your garbage picked up. Do you see what they are doing to each other in Mexico? No respect for each other so why would thay have any respect for us? Also, onetinsoldier… maybe if these so called menial jobs that you say Americans won’t take were not being filled by illegal’s the pay on them would be enough so a US citizen could take them & be able feed his family. Maybe if the jobs here in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA were filled by LEGAL UNITED STATES citizens (no matter what country they were from) the unemployment rate would go down & pay scale would go up without having to unionize!! I’m pretty sure that onetinsoldier is the one who does not think!! This country is not the United States of Mexico & I resent having to “push 1 for English”!!!
Plus... I would like to know how many of MY tax dollars are going to paying for Homeland Security & the Dept. of Justice to “review 300,000 cases on a one by one basis”. Don’t those two departments have better things to do? Is that part of Obama’s job plan? UNBELIEVEABLE!!

September 19, 2011 at 1:09 p.m.

Onetinregressive is typical of the "it's about the jobs stupid" gourp. He knows it's really about the votes. This is just the same old script from the "dream act" and amnesty group.

September 19, 2011 at 2:39 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

Go look at the neighborhoods that these people live in. They are filthy! They don’t have any respect for anything or anyone. It doesn't cost money to keep your garbage picked up.

That and more can be found in any poor white neighborhood too.

Plus... I would like to know how many of MY tax dollars are going to paying for Homeland Security & the Dept. of Justice to “review 300,000 cases on a one by one basis”.

Too late! You should have voiced your concerns when HLS was an egg awaiting fertilization. Now that it's here, like so many other ill thought up means to keep americans safe it will darn near take another kind of act of war to get rid of them.

September 19, 2011 at 4:35 p.m.
larwilb60 said...

"Two teens are back with their families thanks to change in deportation policy"....and are their families LEGAL? If not, why are they still here in this country????????

September 19, 2011 at 6:56 p.m.
larwilb60 said...

How many jobs will their DEPORTATION as required by US FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAW free up for Unemployed CITIZENS in the DALTON/CALHOUN area?????

September 19, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

How many jobs will their DEPORTATION as required by US FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAW free up for Unemployed CITIZENS in the DALTON/CALHOUN area?????

Probably none, larwilb60. When the chicken processing plant was raided in Macon Ga a few years ago, and the business was without immigrant labor, they resorted to the use of prisoner labor to do the work for even less or no salary at all. Today's GOP are deceitful and manipulating. Today's aren't the same party of Lincoln's time.

September 19, 2011 at 8:19 p.m.
larwilb60 said...

IMMIGRANT labor is different than ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT labor! When the chicken plant in Chattanooga was raided the Pilgrims Pride plant survived and thrived! So dont give me that crap! ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL! Immigrants are LEGAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

September 19, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
larwilb60 said...

How the heck does a BUSINESS resort to prisoner labor?

September 19, 2011 at 8:52 p.m.
larwilb60 said...

If that is the case then why allow ILLEGALs? Just get prisoner labor? DUH! We are already paying for their upkeep..

September 19, 2011 at 8:53 p.m.
McRand said...

The problem also extends to a mockery of law. There is preferential treatment to one group, while others are held to a rigid upholding. You either have to enforce the law or get rid of it. Since when are we given the privilege in choosing which laws to obey and which to break without suffering the penalty? Only the elites benefit from this disgrace of the law, the majority of hardworking taxpayers suffer the results.

September 19, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.
McRand said...

Then who pays for the illegals and their children? Well, they join right in with the other "every day's a holiday" bunch.

And a big thanks to the hard working taxpayers.

September 20, 2011 at 2:42 a.m.
wtfobama said...
September 21, 2011 at 6:25 p.m.
wtfobama said...

macropetala8 said "Too late! You should have voiced your concerns when HLS was an egg awaiting fertilization. Now that it's here, like so many other ill thought up means to keep americans safe it will darn near take another kind of act of war to get rid of them."

I did vioce concerns macropetala8. I will also voice my concerns about..... "On Aug. 18, the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security announced the establishment of a joint working group with the Department of Justice. The group will work to make sure resources are focused on the highest immigration priorities, mainly those who pose a threat to public safety and national security, repeat immigration law violators and recent border entrants." Was it not the Department of Justice that was responsible for "OPERATION GUNRUNNER" & "FAST & FURIOUS" which allowed thousands of high powered weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartel? One of these weapons was used to kill an American Border Patrol Officer with dozens more linked to killings. This is the department that will do the screenings to make sure that these none of these 300,000 immigrants pose a threat to public safety. Makes sense to me!!! Yes, there are poor white people who don't keep there places up but, I assume that most of them are american citizens. My point was not the filth these people don't mind living in but the fact that I don't think that you or I would go to their country & disrespect it like they do ours. The garbage that they have on the outside of their house is just what we can see. What do you think is on the inside that none of us can see?

September 21, 2011 at 6:41 p.m.
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