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Workers detained by ICE at Travis Air Force Base denied immigration hearing

By TATIANA SANCHEZ | The Mercury News (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 31, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Two undocumented immigrants detained by ICE agents on the Travis Air Force Base earlier this month remain in expedited deportation proceedings after being denied immigration hearings Tuesday, according to their attorney and local immigration activists.

The men, Hugo Mejia, of San Rafael, and Rodrigo Nunez, from Hayward — both undocumented immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, who have been in the United States for more than a decade — were set to start a new construction project May 3 at a hospital on the base. They were detained after a military official discovered they did not have valid Social Security numbers during a routine identification screening and reported them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The men remain in immigration custody. Their plight has become a flashpoint of the national immigration debate and has drawn sympathy and support from friends, neighbors and immigrant rights activists who say the men are being swept up in an illegal immigration crackdown that was supposed to focus on felons, not people whose only offense was entering the country illegally.

“Hugo and Rodrigo’s unjust detention is hurting their families and communities,” said their attorney, Alisa Whitfield, of Oakland’s Centro Legal de la Raza, in a statement. “After 15 years in the United States, at minimum, they deserve a full and fair hearing in front of an immigration judge.”

An ICE spokesman Wednesday said only that the men’s cases are “pending,” but would not elaborate.

ICE officials have placed both men in expedited deportation proceedings without a court hearing — known formally as “reinstatement” — because they each have old removal orders issued more than a decade ago after border agents caught them attempting to illegally cross the border. Neither of them has criminal records, according to their attorney.

“I want people to know that we are good people,” Mejia said in Spanish during a phone interview with The Mercury News from the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, where he is being held. “We don’t take anything from this country. On the contrary, we give to this country. It’s not fair to deport us.”

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 recently, 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.

Community members along with the men’s families plan a demonstration at Monday at the ICE building in San Francisco, hoping immigration officials will reconsider the men’s cases.

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©2017 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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