Attorney Carlos M. García , a crImmigration.com co-editor, took DHS to task in a recent article appearing in The Monitor newspaper. Naxiely López, PSJA North Student Volunteers to Leave the Country, The Monitor, Oct. 15, 2010.
Reporter Naxiely López asked Attorney García his views on the recent voluntary departure of an undocumented 17-year-old local high school student who was brought to the United States as a baby. Apparently this teenager was brought to the Border Patrol’s attention after being convicted of criminal trespass for skipping school with some friends and entering an abandoned warehouse.
Hidalgo County, like all Texas counties, is part of the Secure Communities program through which DHS flags undocumented individuals in law enforcement custody. What is unusual about this case is that the teenager was turned over to the Customs and Border Patrol division of DHS instead of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the usual Secure Communities partner.
Attorney García strongly countered the Border Patrol spokeswoman’s characterization of voluntary departure as a “slap on the hand.”
“They paint a very pretty picture, but he has no way of coming back,” the lawyer said. “They’re not going to give him a tourist visa, because they know he’s not going to come in as a tourist. He doesn’t have any family that can petition for him, so there’s no way he can lawfully come back to the United States. He should have never signed that voluntary return. …. Now that he’s in Mexico he’s given up his right to fight that case,” Garcia added.
Reporter López points out that it is unclear whether this teenager falls within ICE’s recently stated priority to target individuals convicted of crimes or not. His criminal trespassing conviction, for which he was sentenced to probation, is not a serious crime. Moreover, ICE disclaims any involvement in this situation. Nonetheless, somehow the Border Patrol was called and presented with the choice of spending time in an immigration prison and going to live with his grandmother, this poorly advised teenager chose the easiest short-term option: he agreed to leave the only country he’s ever known.
Without much of a support network in México except for a grandmother with few resources of her own the long-term prospects are not good for this 17-year-old.