Former Valley CBP Immigration Officer Facing Possible Deportation
WESLACO – A family secret left a disabled veteran facing deportation. Half a century living in the U.S., five deployments in the Navy nor national recognition prepared a federal employee for the ironic twist of fate.
The path to citizenship can be long and arduous.
Raul Rodriguez was aware of the complexities when he tried immigrating his brother from Matamoros. He had worked as an immigration officer for Customs and Border Protection since 2000.
As an officer, he would process “removals, visa cancellations, asylum cases, [and] anything that had to do with the processing of immigrants into the U.S.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requested documents required for the immigration of Rodriguez's brother. He was nearing approval when Rodriguez received a call from the Office of Inspector General.
“They present me a Mexican birth certificate and ask me if I had ever seen it,” he recalled.
The certificate was in his name. He was asked if it had belonged to him, he replied, "Yes, it is."
“'Have you ever seen it?' I said, no. I've never seen it before. I'm almost 50 years old and I've never seen it,” Rodriguez said.
The Mexican birth certificate predated the one Ramirez believed was the original from the United States.
The OIG initiated an investigation into the legal status of an immigration officer who for nearly two decades had a hand in the deportations of many.
Distraught and confused, Rodriguez got in touch with his father in Mexico and brought him in front of OIG investigators.
Rodriguez says, “At first, he was kind of hesitant and he didn't want to answer questions, but I finally told him, 'Hey. I need to know the truth.' And he kind of shook his head saying that I was born in Mexico. And, it was devastating, because I knew what was going to happen after that.”
The federal job that compensated him with more than $100,000 annually was the first to go. The criminal investigation continued, but eventually Rodriguez was cleared by the OIG.
In a letter they sent him, it stated:
“The facts collected failed to substantiate the allegation that R. Rodriguez knowingly submitted a fraudulent U.S. birth certificate in an attempt to adjust the immigration status of his brother.”
Switching focus from his brother’s legal status to his, Rodriguez filed an application for residency with the USCIS. That was over a year and a half ago.
Rodriguez’s immigration attorney, Jaime Diez, says the government is holding him to the consequences of a law from 1996.
Diez mentioned Section 212(a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which covers inadmissibility for having made a false claim to U.S. citizenship.
It defines an inadmissible applicant as, “In general - Any alien who falsely represents, or has falsely represented, himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose of benefit.”
In essence, it keeps a person who falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizenship from ever being eligible for citizenship.
Diez says USCIS is treating this case differently, like delaying its processing. While it was being adjudicated, the Board of Immigration appeals filed a decision in 2018 – Matter of Jun Yun ZHANG.
Diez explained, “And there was a decision that says in that case, it is irrelevant if he didn't know that he was not a citizen when he made the claim.”
That means oblivion to the truth still yields inadmissibility.
Diez disputes it pointing out a USCIS policy which states that the terms of inadmissibility are determined if an “alien made the false representation knowingly.”
“We believe that the decision [Matter of Jun Yun Zhang] is not applicable in this case. We have filed an appeal, a motion to reconsider. Eventually it might end up with a judge, but what that means for him is that his life is going to be on hold years coming down the road,” says Diez.
While he waits, the loss of income is straining the family budget.
Rodriguez admitted, “I had to refinance my home, to consolidate all our debt so that my wife would be able to afford making payments and not lose our home.”
Tensions also run high in the marriage – his wife also works processing immigration applications. His teenage children are concerned about losing his father.
In his daily life, Rodriguez says he feels like he’s constantly looking over his shoulder.
He described, “Every time I see a cop or a police officer, I kind of stiffen up or get nervous to see Border Patrol. These are people that I worked with, and now I have to fear these people.”
It’s a situation traced back to a family secret he still can’t believe was kept from him for decades.
USCIS said they cannot comment due to privacy concerns.
Diez says they’ve filed a motion for reconsideration asking USCIS to overturn their denial. If that motion is not successful, they plan to file an appeal in court.
For now, they’re pleading for help from lawmakers, such as Congressman Filemon Vela.
He stated: “This administration’s immigration policies are focused on deportation and that is directly affecting innocent people who deserve to be here.”