ICE deports construction worker detained on Travis Air Force Base
By TATIANA SANCHEZ | The Mercury News (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 6, 2017
Rodrigo Nuñez, one of two construction workers detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement while reporting to a new job on the Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, has been deported, according to activists and his union. The father of three American-born children had been in the United States for more than a decade.
“This injustice is the bitter fruit of the administration’s cruel and abusive policies,” said the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in a brief statement Friday announcing Nuñez’s deportation.
Meanwhile, activists are ramping up efforts to free Hugo Mejia, the San Rafael man who was detained with Nuñez on the base in May and who remains in custody at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove.
The men’s cases — which reached members of Congress and rallied union workers across the country to campaign for their release — drew sympathy and support from friends, neighbors and immigrant rights activists who say the men were swept up in an illegal immigration crackdown that was supposed to focus on felons, not people whose only offense was entering the country illegally.
The men were denied immigration hearings in May. ICE did not immediately respond to a phone call and emails for comment Friday. Nunez’s family asked for privacy and did not comment on the deportation.
Nuñez and Mejia were detained May 3 after a military official discovered during a routine identification screening that they did not have valid social security numbers and reported them to ICE.
ICE officials placed both men in expedited deportation proceedings without a court hearing — known formally as “reinstatement” — because they each had old removal orders issued more than a decade ago after being caught attempting to cross the border illegally. Neither had criminal records, according to their attorneys at the Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland.
In President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 41,318 immigrants, up 37.6 percent over the same period last year, the agency said earlier this month, according to the Washington Post. Almost 3 out of 4 of those arrested have criminal records, including gang members and fugitives wanted for murder. But the biggest increase by far is among immigrants with no criminal records — arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the Washington Post reported.
“I used to see news reports of so many cases, but you never think that it’s going to happen to you,” Cristina Villanueva, Nuñez’s wife, told this newspaper in May.
The two men were described as star employees at S&R Drywall, and were involved in their children’s school activities and at their local parishes.
Members of Congress in June gave their case new urgency, issuing a letter to San Francisco ICE Field Director David Jennings calling on the agency to explore other avenues besides deportation.
“In March, the president told business leaders that his deportation plans were aimed at, ‘getting really bad dudes out of this country.’ ICE should act in accordance with these sentiments with regards to the Mejia and Nuñez families,” said the letter. The letter was signed by Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; Ro Khanna, D-San Jose; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, among others.
Bay Area activists said they’re planning events this month to call for Mejia’s release. His union, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, rallied on his behalf in New York City this week, in what Oakland activist Jon Rodney called, “a very powerful display of solidarity.”
“We all need to fight to bring Hugo back to his family and his community,” said Rodney of the California Immigrant Policy Center.
Meanwhile Nuñez, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, leaves behind his wife and three children, ages 12, 10 and 6.
©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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