Update 12:05 p.m. Tuesday:
Supporters of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez said in a news release that he was “deported in the late morning on Tuesday despite overwhelming support from the community and a broad coalition of faith, labor and human rights leaders.”
A previously planned rally will still happen at 5 p.m. to protest his deportation and “to vow to unite against any subsequent attempts to deport additional members of the Pittsburgh immigrant community,” according to the release.
“This is a tragedy,” Guillermo Perez of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement said in the release. “A good man and a community leader was held in jail for nine months and now he is gone. He’s gone, he’s torn apart from his family, and he’s never coming back. The Mayor supported him, Congressman Doyle supported him, Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik supported him, and 1,400 people called and wrote letters supporting him. Our whole city stood behind Martín, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) didn’t care. He’s just gone.”
Martin Esquivel-Hernandez could be deported today.
That’s the case every Tuesday for Esquivel-Hernandez, who is in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Seneca County Jail in Tiffin, Ohio. It’s the day of the week when ICE-chartered flights leave the state for Mexico.
But his chances of being deported are greater today than on previous Tuesdays. Last week, Esquivel-Hernandez lost his latest attempt to convince an immigration judge to allow him to stay in the U.S.
“We believe that Martin’s time is running out,” Christina Castillo, a organizer with Thomas Merton Center, a peace and social justice resource center in Pittsburgh, told The Incline.
Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant, came to Pittsburgh from Mexico in 2012, but was arrested last spring by ICE officials after police cited him twice for driving without a valid license. In December, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge as part of a plea deal, which lessened his chances of deportation but didn’t eliminate them.
Since his arrest, community organizers, faith leaders, friends and family have fought for his return.
At 5 p.m. today, his supporters will have a “Last Chance to #BringMartinHome” rally at South Water and Hot Metal streets near the Hot Metal Bridge in the South Side. On the Facebook event page, organizers call for “the full strength of our community to demand that ICE Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci exercises her power to bring Martin home to Pittsburgh where he belongs.”
Antonia Domingo, an attorney and Esquivel-Hernandez supporter, told the Post-Gazette that an immigration judge on Thursday denied Esquivel-Hernandez’s plea that he had “credible fear of harm” if he went back to Mexico. Pittsburgh City Paper previously reported that Esquivel-Hernandez was assigned to fight drug cartels as a member of the Mexican army, which made his family the subject of harassment.
Rally to #BringMartinHome
Today’s rally will be held in the same place as a Saturday protest that drew roughly 100 people and stopped traffic. Castillo, who took part in the Saturday protest, said that event was held to object to how ICE operates and how the agency “criminalized our leaders, like Martin.”
She said today’s rally is centered on Pittsburgh’s ongoing support of Esquivel-Hernandez and to urge officials to “actually respect the city’s wishes and bring Martin home.” His supporters include U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle and City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak as well as the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Bishop David Zubik, per the PG.
Castillo added that the rally will start after deportations for the day are likely finished. In that way, the event will double as a rally to stand in solidarity with the people who are deported from the same jail where Esquivel-Hernandez is detained.
Esquivel-Hernandez’s supporters have collected more than 1,500 signatures and written 800 letters to ICE officials, Castillo said. They’ve also flooded Adducci’s office with voicemails that, according to Castillo, haven’t been returned. Organizers of today’s event are urging attendees to call Adducci’s office and to leave a voicemail or if the inbox is full, call back later.
The Incline reached out to ICE about Esquivel-Hernandez’s case for this story. Officials said they stand by a previous statement made on Jan. 9.
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.
Supporters have repeatedly stressed that Esquivel-Hernandez is a community leader and have claimed that he is not a priority for deportation under federal policies that prioritize those who are a threat.
The outpouring of support from the community has been constant, both before and after President Donald Trump’s election and his immigration and travel ban, Castillo said. She added that people believe local communities are under attack.
“We just refuse to let this happen,” she said. ” Not on my watch and not on anyone’s watch.”
Castillo said that when protesters blocked the street on Saturday, a lot of people were upset. But the small inconvenience doesn’t compare in any way to the pain ICE is causing families, she said.
“This issue is a lot more important than someone being late on their way home from work,” Castillo said.