Charlotte, North Carolina – Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez returned to North Carolina to witness the deportation hearing of a Mexican man and be able to test the policy of President Barack Obama to give priority for deportation to criminals
Outside the Immigration Court building in Charlotte, Gabino Sánchez, accompanied by his wife, one of his two U.S.-born children and a group of community leaders, begged the president not to deport him.
In a press conference before the hearing, Gutiérrez emphasized that the Sánchez case "should never have been brought forward," given the official policy of prioritizing expulsion of criminals.
"Getting rid of gang members and drug dealers - we will assist you. But Gabino is the father of two American citizen children. He is not a criminal," the Democratic lawmaker said.
Sánchez, who lives in South Carolina, has multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving without a license, but no felonies or serious traffic offenses.
Gutiérrez asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to abandon the push to deport Sánchez.
A federal immigration judge in Charlotte on Wednesday granted Sanchez's attorney, Marty Rosenbluth, two months to present his arguments in the case and demonstrate that the migrant's deportation would cause extreme hardship for his family.
The personal attention paid by Gutiérrez to Sanchez's case is part of his effort to closely follow the implementation of the Obama administration's policy to concentrate on undocumented foreigners with criminal records when it comes to carrying out deportations.
Last week, the ICE director told Congress that the agency had reviewed about 142,000 pending deportation cases and had set aside just 1,500.
More than 1 million people have been deported since Obama took office in January 2009, half of whom did not have criminal records.
Sanchez came to the United States at age 14. He settled in Ridgeland, South Carolina, worked in gardening and construction and eventually married and had two children, ages 6 and 2.
The Mexican's nightmare began on Nov. 2 when police stopped him for speeding. Because he is undocumented and did not have a driver's license - and also has a history of fines for driving without authorization - he was turned over to ICE.
He spent several days in the local jail before he was released on bail pending deportation.
Gutiérrez learned of Sánchez's case when he attended a meeting of Hispanic leaders in Charleston last November as part of his national tour to demand that the federal government overturn harsh state immigration laws such as South Carolina's SB 20.
Rosenbluth suggested that Sanchez's arrest was a clear case of racial profiling.
Sanchez hopes that his fate will be decided on his next court appearance, May 15, and that the case will be closed once and for all. If he wins, he would receive a work permit but that would not resolve his legal situation.