Richard Quintana and Daniel McGuire | Cost of the crackdown
The illegal immigrant crackdown in Prince William County continues. County officials insist that it is fair. Some see a great success – others see a travesty. Many immigrants are leaving the county, thinking that police are targeting Hispanics. They see individuals being detained and separated from their families. Even legal immigrants, like Federico, have been caught in the net.
Federico has been a resident since 1990. He is married with four children. He’s a member of All Saints Catholic Church. He has worked for the same firm for years. This summer, Federico and his wife, Maria, were on their way to register their daughter in kindergarten. They stopped to answer the phone. Maria stepped out of the car to take the call. They were about to be late. As he tugged at Maria to get in the car, a passing witness called police. Within minutes the police pulled them over. Federico was arrested for assault and abduction despite Maria’s objections that nothing happened.
Federico was held in the Prince William County jail for two months before his case was heard. Predictably, the charges were dropped at the hearing. However, PWC had already transferred him to immigration custody for a prior conviction. In 2002, on his lawyer’s advice, he pled guilty to assault charges in exchange for probation and a suspended sentence. He was unaware the plea could result in deportation.
Prior to immigration charges against Federico being filed, Catholic Charities submitted a bond request for his release, pending the outcome of his case. The request was denied. It appears DHS is determined to deport Federico for his previous conviction.
Federico paid his debt to Virginia, but immigration law allows him to be held for his 2002 assault conviction under Virginia law. His only hope of remaining in this country is to have his 2002 felony conviction reversed. Federico doesn’t have the resources to reopen his case.
Federico needs legal assistance that he cannot afford. Catholic Charities has done all it can do. However, in our opinion, Federico should not have been charged for assault and abduction in the first place. This frivolous arrest caused an insurmountable problem for Federico. The human cost of PWC’s immigration enforcement for Federico and his family has been enormous. Is this how we want to deal with immigration problems?
– Richard Quintana is chairman of the Peace and Justice Committee at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. Daniel McGuire is staff attorney at Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.