Originally published by NY Daily News
For Father's Day this year, Maria Martinez got her dad, an undocumented immigrant, the worst gift ever — a one-way ticket to Mexico.
She hopes he never has to use it.
Thirty years after fleeing poverty and violence in a dangerous pocket of Mexico, her father, Martin Martinez, will learn Tuesday if he can stay in the place he calls home or if he must return to a country that is little more than a distant memory.
Among the requirements for the 50-year-old’s stay of deportation hearing is that he produce a one-way ticket back to the country he fled.
Maria Martinez bought the ticket for Father’s Day, June 18, because it would be Martinez’s last day of eligibility if he’s ordered to leave the country. Her mother’s birthday is the following day. She will turn 50.
“I don’t want them to send my dad away one day earlier than he’s supposed to leave,” Maria told the Daily News.
The legal odyssey of Martinez and his family began April 8, 2013, when U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents showed up at their home in upstate Newburgh at 6 a.m.
Martinez was in his room and his wife, Julia Ochoa, was preparing his lunch for work when agents took them into custody and detained them for two weeks.
ICE apparently targeted Martinez because he has two DWI convictions from nearly 20 years ago. His wife, who is also an undocumented immigrant, has no criminal record. Their two adult children, born in the U.S., are American citizens.
Martinez, who works in a Staples distribution center, said no one was injured during the DWI incidents, and that he has paid the required fines.
“I know it’s not over yet,” said Martinez, who is from Puebla, Mexico. “I’m paying my taxes like everybody else. I’m not a criminal. We make mistakes in life. We’re human. They’re targeting me. I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Martinez fled Mexico in 1986, and settled in the Bronx before moving to Newburgh. Eight months later, he met Ochoa. They married, and had two children.
“They wanted to be able to have green card status without living in fear,” Maria said. So, in 2004, Martinez and Ochoa applied for asylum, but a judge did not believe their return to Mexico would constitute a hardship for their children, so they were denied.
“I remember that hearing still,” said Maria, who was just 10 at the time. “I remember my parents walking out crying, and the lawyer saying, ‘I’m sorry. I did everything I could.’ ”
The couple expected to receive a letter giving them a date with an order to leave the country, Maria said. But the letter never arrived.
So the parents kept working and sending their kids off to school every day. They ate cake and blew out candles at birthdays. They exchanged gifts at Christmas. They celebrated holidays with relatives.
They did what families do. Until the ICE agents showed up out of the blue in 2013.
While deportations rose dramatically under former President Barack Obama, his administration prioritized terrorism threats, gang members and felons, and pushed for reforms that would legalize law-abiding immigrants with U.S. roots.
In contrast, a call for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants became a central theme of President Trump’s campaign. After his inauguration, Trump’s administration announced that immigrants charged with any crimes would be priorities for deportation.
Officials said in 2013 that Martinez and his wife were being sent back to Mexico because a judge had ordered their deportation, and they didn’t show up at a related appointment. Martinez said he never received any instructions.
After being released in 2013, Martinez and Ochoa were required to check in annually with immigration officials. That meeting happened every year in November. Last year, two days before the presidential election, Martinez was told to come back in April.
“These check-ins would last five minutes,” Maria said. “They knew my dad had been here working, paying taxes, but now all of a sudden, he was a target.”
Maria’s brother, Martin, has also filed an I-130 “Petition for Alien Relative” form that if approved would allow his parents to legally immigrate to the U.S. Immigration law allows undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive employment authorization while their I-130 petitions are pending.
Martinez spent the day before his hearing at work. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Martinez said. “Twenty years ago, the DWIs, but that’s 20 years ago. No one was hurt. From there, I’m clean. I raised a good family. I raised good kids.”
Maria, meanwhile, hopes to get a few moments between her full-time job as a scheduler for the state attorney general’s office and her part-time studies at Baruch College to get to the mall.
She wants to get her dad a better gift.
Read more: www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/daughter-plea-ice-booting-father-mexico-article-1.3224185
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