Blog Archive

Monday, September 26, 2011

Undocumented Immigrants Still Fearful of Deportation

By LaToya Dennis
WUWM, Milwaukee, WI
September 26, 2011

This summer, the Obama administration announced it was halting deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants, until it could review each case. Many advocates applauded the decision, calling it a first step toward allowing many workers and students living here illegally to remain. Critics voiced opposition to what they call - amnesty for law-breakers. A few years ago, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that Wisconsin is home to between 75,000 and 115,000 illegal immigrants. As WUWM’s LaToya Dennis reports, the change in White House policy is not easing the fears of some. For nearly two decades, Marco Espinosa and his wife have made a life for themselves in Milwaukee. They have two children - a 14 year old daughter and a son who’s 12. To help support his family, Espinosa works as a cook – he won’t say where. But he does say that the only difference between his family and most others is that he and his wife are in the U.S. illegally.

“I don’t feel bad about it,” Espinosa says.

…Because, Espinosa says, he’s never taken a handout or asked for help.

“They say illegal people, they’re coming here because we get benefits and stuff like that. Like I say, I don’t get no benefits. All the benefits I got is a job in this country. This is why I come into this country, I come looking for job. I got a job. I always do the job the best way I can. That’s why I don’t feel bad,” Espinosa says.

Espinosa says outside of being arrested a few years back for driving without a license, he has never been in legal trouble…but did have a scare. He says back in July, police and agents from the FBI and ICE - Immigration and Customers Enforcement- arrested him in front of his home. According to Espinosa, they suspected him of being a gang member.

“If I been involved in a gang member you know, I’ll tell everybody the truth. But I’m not involved in any gang or stuff like that,” Espinosa says.

Espinosa says he was held for nearly a month. He believes authorities targeted him because they know he’s here illegally and want to force him to leave. But he also has a common name, and a few others with the same, do have warrants out for their arrest.

“I’m living here for 18 years, you know. I got two kids, they born over here, they grew up over here, they are American citizens. I don’t see why I should have to leave my kids here or take my kids back to Mexico,” Marco says.

Espinosa is one of 300,000 undocumented immigrants whose deportation case is now on hold, at least temporarily. Primitivo Torres calls the new Obama administration policy ordering reviews of so-called low priority cases, a welcome change. Torres is president of the local immigrant advocacy group, Voces De La Frontera.

“What does that mean, a low priority case? It means you don’t have a criminal background, you have an extended stay here in the United States. If if you have children who are who are citizens of the United States that’s also a factor,” Torres says.

Torres says people have been contacting his organization daily, expressing fears about being forced to leave the U.S., if police pull them over, for say, a traffic violation. He hopes Washington eventually reforms its immigration laws so people who’ve come here to take jobs, can stay if they’ve been decent residents.

Wisconsin state Rep. Donald Pridemore also wants reform, but of a different variety. He’s introduced a bill similar to one in Arizona. The measure gives law enforcement the power to turn people over to immigration officials, if the person has broken the law and cannot provide identification.

“Our particular bill deals with the criminal element. It doesn’t go after employers or anything like that. It’s only about a six-page bill compared to Arizona’s bill which is about 43 pages,” Pridemore says.

Pridemore says his goal is to force the federal government’s hand to deal with people who have entered the country illegally.

“It was introduced in order to hopefully move the federal government toward enforcing the immigration laws we currently have on the books or address the issue from a national standpoint. We want the federal government to stop ignoring the situation,” Pridemore says.

Pridemore hopes legislative leaders schedule his bill for a hearing in upcoming months. Several other proposals may be forthcoming. Bills expected to be introduced in Wisconsin include one requiring proof of citizenship to receive public assistance, and another that would withhold from businesses tax credits, loans and public contracts if those firms hire undocumented workers. Meanwhile, Marco Espinosa awaits a ruling on his case.

“I don’t know. Obama, he make a lot of promises. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Espinosa says.

Espinosa says if he is ordered out of the country, he only hopes he’s given enough time to get things in order and ensure his family will be OK.