After serving his time in state prison, an ex-felon learns he may be deported to Mexico
By Andres Romero 01/10/2013
After completing most of an 11-year state prison sentence, today I am being detained by federal immigration and customs officials to face deportation proceedings.
This story isn’t just about me and my dilemma. Rather, it is intended to bring awareness to society of the detrimental hardship it can and will cause to a spouse and a family left behind.
I’m about to be stripped (if I don’t soon find some kind of legal relief) of my lifetime legal residency status following a felony conviction. But what this possible deportation also means is that my wife of 33 years will be stripped of her civil right to be married. She quite possibly could become an innocent victim in this matter, having broken no law to warrant such a harsh and cruel punishment. Not only would she be deprived of her constitutional rights, but she would also suffer mental and physical impacts on her health and emotional state of mind. This says nothing of what the rest of the family would experience with the loss of a parent.
Like so many legal immigrants, I didn’t come to America — I was brought here by my mother, who is and has been a naturalized US citizen. She brought me to this great nation when I was 2 years old. Since then, I’ve been a lifetime legal resident for more than 50 years — 40 years as a resident of Pasadena.
Like any youth in America coming from a dysfunctional home environment, one in which I endured both physical and mental abuse (and eventually sexual abuse outside the home), I grew up angry — angry at the world, angry at God.
This traumatic and painful upbringing would lead me later in life to become self-destructive. Nevertheless, I fought and struggled to live as a law-abiding citizen; I got educated and have an extensive work history. For several years, I was a youth advocate and a community volunteer in the prevention of gang and racial violence in Pasadena.
Whenever I took a fall, I would always get up and make a comeback. And even though I had a lifetime of setbacks, I never quit on myself or on my family in my efforts to be productive and hold myself accountable for my actions and behavior.
However, since Sept. 11 and the terrorist attacks on American soil, immigration laws have become so restrictive that legal immigrants are now subjected to “double jeopardy.” In essence, I am being detained and prosecuted for the same offense that led to my incarceration in a state prison.
Nowhere in the American justice system can a defendant be held, prosecuted and convicted for the same offense twice. What this now amounts to for thousands of legal immigrants who find themselves in the same predicament is a life sentence in a foreign country, one where I have absolutely no family or community ties.
Although Mexico is about a 2½-hour drive from Pasadena, I haven’t been outside of the United States in 25 to 30 years. In fact, I have discouraged my children (and you should as well) from crossing the border into Mexico, a country plagued by widespread governmental, political and police corruption, kidnappings for ransom, murders and assassinations of political figures who try to fight against the drug cartels.
The bottom line is, for any legal immigrant who has lived his or her life in the United States and has adopted this great nation as his or her own, only to be deported, this situation is much like being in the movie “Escape From New York.” In the film, a prisoner (a deportee) is subjected to either becoming affiliated with or aligning him or herself with certain underground and criminal elements in order to survive, or else be swallowed alive.
Up until now, I’ve spoken about legal immigrants because all one hears about in the news is “illegals,” never mentioning legal immigrants who are being ripped away from their families in a country they have contributed to for most, if not all of their lives!
Yet, while this is happening, immigrants, whether legal or illegal from undeveloped or under-developed countries or countries with no diplomatic ties with the United States, are not deported. Rather, they are detained for two to three months and then set free — sent back into our communities after being granted “political asylum” status. Why? For fear that these immigrants would be murdered upon arrival to their respective countries. The US government doesn’t want their blood on its hands.
The US government and American citizens, some of whom have been victims of crime (some murdered) while touring or traveling in Mexico, know exactly how deadly Mexico has become in recent decades. It seems inconceivable to deport a lifetime legal American resident who has no knowledge of Mexican culture or community ties there.
Am I fearful for my well-being and safety? Hell yes! Where does one go? How do you begin a new life in a foreign country? If this isn’t cruel and unusual punishment, then can someone please tell me what is?
In fact, there are groups of armed bandits who lie in wait to prey on American tourists and deportees crossing into Mexico. This is well-known to those concerned about the safety of loved ones who want to take a day trip across the border.
Since this turn of events in my life, everyone has asked me, “Why didn’t you become a naturalized United States citizen?” My response is and always will be, “Because I am an American citizen! This is my country! Maybe not on some binding and legal document, but this is the country I was raised in and have lived in my entire life!”
God bless America … our America!
Andres Romero is currently being held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at the Adelanto Detention Center.