Family Fears Man’s Possible Deportation Due to Policy Change

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WESLACO – A family’s life hangs in the balance as stricter immigration enforcement led to the father’s detention and possible deportation to Mexico.

Elia Castro said she wants a normal life for her family. Her husband, Manuel Alejandro Castro-Ortiz, was detained last week.

“He’s not criminal. He doesn’t have to be there… I have four children with him. We’ve been married for 14 years, and I’m a school teacher,” she said. “What’s going on with these people? I’m a U.S. citizen. I wasn’t a resident. I was born here and I have my rights, and my husband for so many years has rights.”

Castro-Ortiz, a Mexican national, entered the country illegally in 1999. He was deported at least once and reentered the country illegally within the past 18 years.

A traffic violation landed him in U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s custody again three years ago.

Castro-Ortiz then went before an immigration judge who administratively closed his deportation case under prosecutorial discretion last year.

“To me, it felt more normal. Not always having to hide him. Not always having to be so cautious,” Castro said.

Immigration attorney Lionel Perez said prosecutorial discretion allows immigration judges more flexibility in how they deal with those who entered the county illegally.

“The prosecutor has discretion to proceed against somebody in his discretion. It’s not law. It’s not a rule, it’s a policy,” he said.

Perez said the policy was exercised more liberally under the Obama administration. But things are different now.

“Factors that they used: long residency in the United States, family that are in the United States that are citizens or lawful permanent residents, health, age, all these factors,” he said. “Then the prosecutor would say, ‘Well, I’m going to utilize my prosecutorial discretion to not proceed with the case against this person.”

Castro-Ortiz traveled north with family without any prior problems, according to his wife.

Last week, he was traveling north to take a nephew to a job interview. He was stopped at the Falfurrias checkpoint, presented his paperwork and was detained.

“So now we’re here, where they told him that those papers were not to be used to go through checkpoints. Nobody ever told us that the other 30 or 40 to 50 times we have gone through there,” she said.

Castro said her husband was asked to sign a voluntary deportation form, which he refused.

Castro-Ortiz’s case was reopened. He will have to wait for a bond hearing and be placed on an immigration court calendar again to continue deportation proceedings.

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