For the past five years, Gaston Cazares, an undocumented immigrant living in Carlsbad, had been routinely checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in hopes of avoiding deportation.
Cazares, who first arrived in the U.S. almost 30 years ago, is married and has two children — a daughter attending Scripps Ranch High, and a son who has autism, according to Tribune Media. He had been the family breadwinner, paid taxes and had no other criminal record. His son’s condition had allowed Cazares to obtain a stay of removal.
But when Cazares went in for his annual check-in back in April, things had changed.
The arrival of the Trump administration – which has begun imposing stricter immigration rules – meant Cazares was scheduled for deportation. Cazares’ case has gotten a lot of attention because of his family’s pleas that he be allowed to stay. It wasn’t enough, and Cazares was removed from the country last week.
Cazares had been deported once in 1998 but returned to reunite with his family.
In 2011, an investigation into the restaurant where he worked revealed to immigration authorities that Cazares was back in the United States.
Cazares’ case demonstrates how policy changes under Trump have put undocumented residents and their families on high alert.
I spoke with Nicole Leon, Cazares’ attorney, for an update on the family and to talk about the scramble to keep up with rapidly changing policies.
Where does the family go from here, now that Cazares has been deported? What are their options?
Unfortunately, their options are to build up a new life the best that they can with the family being separated. As far as legal options, it’s very limited. There’s not many legal options that they have in terms of him re-immigrating to the U.S. or anything like that. Unfortunately, they have the very difficult task of building their lives around this very unfortunate event.
I know the family is still trying to figure out what comes next, but is there any status of where Cazares is currently living or what path he’s going to take?
That I don’t know, and I’m sure he doesn’t even know at this point. One thing that we were looking into is far as a legal remedy was something called a private bill in Congress. Basically, it’s a bill that’s introduced into Congress that allows for the immigration of one specific individual. So, we’re looking into that, although it’s definitely something that is a long-shot because it’s very tough to get to that level, but it’s something we’re looking into.
How has it been adjusting to changes in immigration policy that seem to be occurring very frequently?
It can make it difficult sometimes because of the ever-changing policies that keep getting worse and worse and more punitive as time goes on. For example, when people say, “I don’t know if I want to report a crime that happened to me because I might be apprehended by immigration if I come forward.” Well, there is a visa for people who are victims of crimes and report crimes, but we’re at a point where we have to tell people that they would have to come forward at their own risk. We couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t come to the attention of immigration authorities.
What advice would you give to anyone stuck in a limbo similar to Cazares’ case?
Know your rights. If they have the right to a hearing, they need to ask for it. If they have a fear of returning to their native country, they can indicate that to officials. We also advise our clients not to travel where they might come into contact with immigration authorities, like traveling out of the county where there could be checkpoints, traveling within the country or places where they might come in contact with authorities. And beyond that, they should just have a plan in case the worst happens.
This article originally appeared in the Voice of San Diego.