Update, 6:59 p.m.
Supporters of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez are asking Pittsburghers to call immigration officials to try to prevent his deportation, which they say could be imminent.
Esquivel-Hernandez was transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Ohio on Friday, and he could be deported as early as Tuesday, according to a Monday news release.
Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant, lived in Pittsburgh since 2012, but was arrested this spring by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Community organizers, faith leaders, friends and family have fought for his return ever since.
Late last month, Esquivel Hernandez was granted a plea deal that eliminated a felony charge for illegal re-entry in exchange for a misdemeanor count of using false identification to enter the U.S. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, which lessened his chances of deportation, but didn’t eliminate them.
He is now in ICE custody in Ohio instead of in York, Pa., as previously expected, and his case is in the jurisdiction of Detroit ICE Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci, according to the release.
Gabriel McMorland, an organizer at the Thomas Merton Center, a peace and social justice resource center in Pittsburgh, stressed the ongoing community support for Esquivel-Hernandez. He told The Incline that he and others continue to argue that under U.S. policy, Esquivel-Hernandez doesn’t qualify for priority deportation when he was arrested, and he still doesn’t, because he is not a felon and not a threat.
However, in a statement emailed to The Incline on Monday, ICE officials disagreed.
Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez has two misdemeanor convictions, one from 2012 and 2017, and federal authorities removed him to Mexico four times since 2011, with the latest removal taking place in 2012. As a result, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has designated Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez’s case as a priority for immigration enforcement.
ICE wouldn’t provide more details about the case or its timeline.
Esquivel-Hernandez’s supporters released a response to ICE’s statement on Monday, saying the federal agency’s statement was “puzzling.”
It suggests that they’re not interested in hearing from the many local faith, labor, and community leaders who have submitted compelling letters of support for Martín or from the more than 1,000 Pittsburghers who have signed the online petition urging that he be
returned to his family and community.
They wrote that “the statement also flies in the face of the decision” for Esquivel-Hernandez’s plea deal which allowed him to “remain a non-priority for immigration enforcement.”
We strongly urge ICE to take the time to listen to our community and to not ignore the Department of Homeland Security’s clearly stated policy regarding detention and removal of undocumented Immigrants. Under that policy, Martín is clearly NOT a priority for enforcement, and should be allowed to come home to Pittsburgh.
McMorland said supporters don’t know why Esquivel-Hernandez was moved from one district to another, but called it an example of how the federal agency is not transparent. He said that Esquivel-Hernandez could be released any day, but planes to Mexico leave on Tuesdays, so if he were to be deported, it would likely be on a Tuesday.
Adducci is the one person who has the power to to release him and allow his family to celebrate a belated Christmas together, McMorland said.
He said Adducci is aware of the support for Esquivel-Hernandez through a petition signed by about 1,400 people, as well as letters sent to her and voicemails that he said filled her inbox.
Supporters also filed a formal request asking Adducci to use discretion and planned to travel to Cleveland to file a stay of deportation request, however they were able to file the request from Pittsburgh, McMorland said. They are asking more Pittsburghers to call Adducci on Esquivel-Hernandez’s behalf.
“For five years, Martin and his family have supported the Pittsburgh community. Now it is our turn to support them in their time of need,” Monica Ruiz, organizer with Casa San Jose, said in a news release.
“We ask that community members and elected officials call Rebecca Adducci at 313-568-6036 and demand that she reunite Martin Esquivel-Hernandez with his family and community in Pittsburgh. Enough is enough. Pittsburgh refuses this normalization of mass deportations.”
McMorland added that Pittsburghers can also contact their elected officials and faith leaders to ask them to show their support, as well.
“The case for Martin is about more than just one man or one family; it’s a systemically racist and xenophobic issue. One that will only increase when the upcoming administration comes into office. Adducci’s decision could either be an act of humanity and justice, or a destructive model for what to expect under the new administration,” Christina Castillo, an organizer with the Merton Center, said in the release.