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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

When Innocence is Not Enough, by Helen Parsonage

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The following was written by immigration lawyer Helen Parsonage:

On September 4, 2012, the Innocence Blog reported on the exoneration of Noe Moreno in North Carolina. The closing sentence of the post read, “Moreno, an undocumented immigrant, was sent back to prison after Friday’s hearing while officials at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] decide when or if he will be released or deported.”

Exoneration isn’t always the end of the story

We are all familiar with the images of exonerated prisoners embracing family members and lawyers on the steps of the courthouse, with newspaper stories about what they plan to do or eat on their first night of freedom. For a few, that is not how it plays out. For the undocumented, an encounter with the criminal justice system can lead to ICE involvement and potential deportation, even when they are innocent. The fact that individuals like Noe are the victims of miscarriages of justice seems to carry little weight with the juggernaut that is ICE.

After the judge vacated Noe Moreno’s convictions, he was taken immediately back into custody by the bailiffs, with no opportunity to hug his mother or other family members. The reason? Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a 48 hour detainer on Noe back when he was first imprisoned, and it was still in effect.

When contacted about the possibility of lifting the detainer or at least bonding Noe out of immigration custody, local ICE agents refused and announced they were going to take Noe into custody with no bond. He would need to schedule a bond hearing in immigration court. One was requested and held on September 6, exactly one week later. The government attorney, part of ICE, asked that no bond be set, on the grounds that Noe ‘had a habit of getting in cars after drinking’ even if he was the passenger in the incident that led to his wrongful conviction Noe has two old DWIs from many years ago, but has made tremendous progress in rehabilitation and sobriety, as the Immigration Judge later recognized. In a particularly callous revelation of the government’s position, ICE counsel dismissed the hardship to Noe’s mother, who is very sick with end stage kidney failure, should he be deported by stating that ‘she managed without him for seven years, so she can mange without him in the future’.

The judge agreed to set a bond and Noe was finally able to rejoin his family.

On November 13, 2013, Noe had his hearing on his case in Charlotte Immigration Court. The judge urged ICE to reconsider its decision to pursue deportation against Noe, but they have refused to do so, determined to remove him. The seven years of wrongful imprisonment appear to be of no concern to them.

Because of quotas on the number of people like Noe to whom an immigration judge can grant a reprieve from deportation, we will not get a written decision on his case until next October. In the meantime, Noe and his family must live with the uncertainty of what will happen next.

Close to 6000 people have signed an online petition asking ICE to let Noe stay with his mother.

Please join them here.

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Updated 12-13-2013 at 09:29 AM by MKolken

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  1. HParsonage's Avatar
    On February 6, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security informed us that they are closing deportation proceedings against Noe, and he will be able to stay in the United States with his mother. Thank you for your support - and the more than 30,000 signatures.
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