Chicago – The wife of Mexican immigrant Jaime Martínez Espinal, attorneys and pro-immigrant activists on Thursday issued a call to President Barack Obama to use his discretionary authority to prevent the deportation of the undocumented man, who is currently detained in Wisconsin.
"My husband is being treated like a common criminal, but he should be judged on the things he has done for his family and the community. He's our only means of support," Jennifer Martínez, a U.S. citizen, said in a telephone conference call from Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Jaime Martínez, a 32-year-old father of four, has been held since Feb. 16 in the Dutch County jail at the disposition of the Chicago office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to what his wife said, his deportation has been postponed, "possibly due to pressure from the community," but it could come about at any time.
"Every Tuesday and Friday there are deportations from Chicago, and although they promised me 24 hours advance notice, I'm afraid I won't arrive in time to tell him goodbye," she added.
She said that she has to drive 2 1/2 hours to get to the detention center. "I see him only for half an hour and it breaks my heart," she said.
"The children can't understand why they see their father through a glass (window), without (being able to) touch him. They cry constantly and this is affecting them in school," she added.
Jaime Martínez was detained by the police when he left work in Manitowoc. According to the official explanation, "there was an immigration hold on his name," his wife said.
Martínez has at least two illegal reentries into the United States after being deported twice.
Jennifer, a Wisconsin native, met Jaime in 1998 and they decided to get married. He had crossed the border for the first time the year before at age 17.
She said that in 2001 on the advice of a lawyer they went to the U.S. consulate in Mexico City to apply for a visa, "but after eight months of waiting and seven appointments they denied it" because he already had a deportation on his record.
Stacy Taeuber, Jaime Martínez's attorney, said in the telephone conference call that it is not easy to regularize the legal status of an undocumented immigrant under these conditions "because the system punishes them."
"Jaime would have to return to Mexico and remain outside the United States for at least 10 years," she said.
The attorney said that the ICE office in Chicago already denied a request for discretionary treatment presented in her client's name, the case was appealed and is currently under review in Washington.
She emphasized that since ICE announced a new policy in August, according to which it would review some 300,000 cases to focus on deporting immigrants responsible for serious crimes, "up to now it has administratively closed just 1 percent of those cases."
That is the reason that Martínez's wife, friends and pro-immigrant groups are conducting a campaign of vigils, letters and petitions - as well as collecting signatures and donations - to help him out.