Blog Archive

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reading grad's deportation postponed

By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer (Cincinnati)
November 23, 2010

The potential deportation of 2010 Reading High School graduate Bernard Pastor has been delayed for at least several weeks.

Meghan Dubyak, a spokeswoman in the Washington office of Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told the Enquirer on Tuesday that Brown received notice that Department of Homeland Security officials – of which Immigration of Customs Enforcement is a part – will hold off on any deportation efforts for several weeks.

ICE confirmed the delay Tuesday night.

A Brown staff member drove from the senator’s Cincinnati office to the Morrow County Jail in Mount Gilead, where Pastor is being held by ICE, to get his signature on a document known as a Request for Assistance, said Firooz Namei, Pastor’s Cincinnati attorney.

The Brown staff member spoke to Pastor and told him of the widespread support for him in Greater Cincinnati, Namei said, and Pastor was moved to tears.

“This is wonderful news,” Namei said.

Pastor, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who has lived in the U.S. with his family since age 3, was arrested last week following a minor traffic accident in Springdale.

When police discovered he was an illegal immigrant, he was turned over to federal agents from ICE. The agents transferred him Monday from the Butler County Jail to another holding site in northern Ohio. The next step in any potential deportation would be to send him to a federal prison camp in Oakdale, La.

The developments capped a day of frenzied activity to keep Pastor in the United States.

Representatives of Brown and U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, contacted Namei’s office Monday and again early Tuesday, the attorney said. Driehaus told The Enquirer on Tuesday afternoon he wrote to two high-ranking officials in the Detroit office of the Department of Homeland Security, chief counsel Aaron Todd and regional director Rebecca Aducci.

“Deporting Bernard Pastor would not serve in the interests of the citizens of the United States, whose tax dollars would be better spent pursuing removals that fit more clearly into the priorities outlined by (ICE),” Driehaus wrote.

Driehaus opened the letter by saying he was writing on behalf of his constituent in the 1st Congressional District of Ohio.

Meanwhile, friends, families and teachers from the Reading High School community are involved.

Spanish teacher Andy Callahan said that Pastor’s supporters are calling
congressional representatives and ICE officials and asking that Pastor be allowed to remain in the U.S. and his case reopened.

A Facebook page called “Free Bernard Pastor” has been created. More than 450 people have clicked “like” on the page and dozens have posted notes of support.

A petition called “Help Us Keep Bernard at Home” was established at More than 1,300 people had signed it by Tuesday evening. About 20 former Reading High classmates met Thursday night at the Deer Park home of Naturel Holloway, 19, who graduated with Pastor. National organizers with and United We Dream joined them. “We’re mad,” Holloway said. “He never did anything to anyone except be a great friend.” Asked for her reaction when she learned of his possible deportation, she said, “I just cried.”

Several dozen plan to run the Thanksgiving Day 10K race downtown. They will wear matching T-shirts that read “Free Bernard” on the front, with his photo, and this slogan on the back: “Not a leaf falls that God does not know about.”

If Pastor remains incarcerated in Morrow County, several students said they plan to visit him.

In the meantime, friends said they would continue to e-mail and call Brown's and Driehaus’ offices to show their support for Pastor.

Federal officials have painted grim prospects for Pastor staying in the U.S. ICE regional spokesman Khaalid Walls said Monday that a federal immigration judge signed a final order for Pastor’s deportation and rejected his asylum appeal.

Pastor came to the U.S. through Mexico with his parents and an older brother and sister. His father worked for Guatemala’s agriculture ministry and, according to Namei, ran afoul of the military and Catholic Church because of his evangelical efforts as a Pentecostal minister. Pastor’s family is in hiding. The family of Bernard Pastor’s uncle received asylum with the same claim, Namei said.

Advocates for immigration reform argue that Pastor’s case is far too typical of the young people who would be helped if Congress would pass the DREAM Act, legislation first introduced in 2001. It would allow a six-year period for young, undocumented immigrants to earn a permanent visa and work toward U.S. citizenship.

In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Pastor’s case – first reported on Cincinnati.Com at midday Monday – has re-energized efforts to push for passage of the DREAM Act, said Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Action office.

Signatures and letters will be delivered to Brown and Voinovich and other federal lawmakers, Stieritz said.