Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez managed to avert deportation threats once before -- his family was certain he could do it again. After immigration officials caught up to him last year, his Ohio family put out a forceful public relations campaign to help him stay in the country. And their efforts paid off: Hernandez-Ramirez, the primary caregiver of his now-25-year-old stepson who suffers from severe cerebral palsy, was ultimately granted a year-long stay of deportation to remain in the U.S.
Now, a year later, Hernandez-Ramirez's reprieve is up, and his family is once again pleading for mercy.
"Honestly, I thought it was a no-brainer. I thought we would get the routine grant. Legally speaking, it’s at the end of the line. That’s just an example of how broken this system is."'
It's stories like Hernandez-Ramirez's that immigration advocates argue highlight the need for executive action from President Obama. The president vowed to take action by the end of the summer to reassess the administration's deportation policies, but later punted on addressing the issue until after the midterm elections. Undocumented immigrants with close ties to the U.S. such as Hernandez-Ramirez -- who is married to a U.S. citizen, father to three stepchildren and one biological son and has lived in the country for more than a decade -- had expected to be granted protection, potentially shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
His attorney, David Leopold, said the family was shocked when they found out last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not be renewing Hernandez-Ramirez's stay.
"Honestly, I thought it was a no-brainer. I thought we would get the routine grant," Leopold told reporters Tuesday. "Legally speaking, it’s at the end of the line. That’s just an example of how broken this system is."
Department of Homeland Security officials have said they prioritize deportations for undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes or caught along the border trying to cross into the U.S. illegally. Meanwhile, immigration agents are directed to use discretion for undocumented immigrants with clean records and deep roots in the country, especially those with U.S.-born kids.
But as case after case shows, that discretion doesn't always translate into tolerance. Hernandez-Ramirez was previously deported after his immigration status was red-flagged to ICE during a routine traffic stop. As the only one in his family able to physically lift and care for his disabled son, Hernandez-Ramirez soon returned to Ohio, where ICE caught up with him once again.
“The president’s postponement of action on deportations until later this year would be less worrisome if ICE consistently adhered to the administration’s enforcement priorities," Leopold said on a press call Tuesday. "Truth be told, if ICE field offices actually followed the prosecutorial discretion directives that Obama has already issued, millions of undocumented immigrants would be granted temporary reprieves from deportation now."
Seleste Wisniewski-Hernandez said she is praying that the federal government will offer a second chance of reprieve for her husband in order to keep their family together.
"I really need for them to have mercy on my family and other families that are feeling this pain," Seleste said. "There's no pain deeper than the thought of leaving my soul mate."