Salvador Gonzalez turned himself in Friday morning, reporting as directed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, trying to cooperate to the end.
Some 12 years ago he crossed the southern U.S. border. He was illegal.
Since then he has worked, and he has a 2-year-old U.S.-born son, Adrian, the result of a long-term relationship.
“I’m sad and I’m scared for them to be living alone,” he said Thursday on the eve of his appointment with ICE. He speaks English, but those words came in Spanish, interpreted by his 20-year-old niece, Dulce Jimenez.
He’s hoping for a reprieve, but on Friday he was being transported to the Morgan County jail in Versailles, Mo., to be staged for deportation early next week.
He and his attorney think the 41-year-old father would be protected by President Barack Obama’s plan to stave off deportation of parents with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
That policy change is under legal challenge, pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The president had promoted the new policy, saying the government should deport “felons, not families.”
“He’s exactly what the president is talking about as the people we don’t want to deport,” said Matthew Hoppock, Gonzalez’s attorney.
The immigration department issued a statement Friday saying that, according to the Department of Homeland Security memo in November 2014, Gonzalez is considered a level three priority.
Level one priority includes violators who are threats to national security and public safety. Level two includes people convicted of “significant misdemeanors” such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, as well as new immigration violators. Gonzalez falls under the third — and lowest — priority because he was issued a final order of removal after Jan. 1, 2014.
Gonzalez was first served notice to appear before an immigration judge for unlawful entry in 2012. He contested the action in court and appealed a ruling for his removal in 2014.
Obama announced the new policy in November 2014 to protect many parents, but the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Gonzalez’s appeal last September and gave him time to depart voluntarily.
Gonzalez, hoping to stay, has appealed to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking more time while the president’s policy awaits a ruling in the high court. The appeal is still pending as immigration enforcement moves to enforce the removal order.
“I really do want to do my best and fight this the best I can,” he said. “I really am a good person.”
He crossed the border in 2004, he said, wanting to find better work opportunities to help support the two sons he has with his ex-wife. They still live in Mexico. A 2012 citation for disturbing the peace got him reported to immigration enforcement.
He has sought relief in courtrooms, complying with every order, reporting as required.
“I have nothing to hide,” he said.
“We don’t dispute that he has a final order of removal,” Hoppock said. “And we don’t dispute that legally they have the right to deport him if they want to. But doing so, before getting an answer on DAPA, is highly contrary to the president’s public statements.”
The final order for removal remained in place Friday, and it is difficult for his family to accept.
“He’s trying to lead a life like all of us here,” said Jimenez, his niece. “I don’t think it (deporting) is right for people who want to do better here. Take the people who are doing bad things here.”
When he states his plea for help, Gonzalez swallows tears. Adrian’s mother has pondered whether she and their son should go with him, he said, but he does not want them to lose the opportunities they have in the U.S.
“Over there (in Mexico), it’s just too dangerous,” he said. “I love them. I can’t do anything else.”