By Brenda Flanagan
Catalino Guerrero arrived at federal customs offices flanked by a U.S. senator, a Catholic cardinal and an ecumenical crowd of chanting supporters, all determined to help the unauthorized Mexican immigrant fight imminent deportation triggered by the Trump administration’s recent crackdown.
“I hope President Trump is watching because Catalino Guerrero is not a ‘bad hombre,'” said Senator Bob Menendez. “He is a good and decent man. And, my God, if he can be deported then we truly are on the verge of mass deportations because this man has no reason to be deported from the United States of America.”
Guerrero came to the U.S. illegally 26 years ago. He worked for a moving company, bought a house in Union City and raised four kids. His family says after an accountant mistakenly applied for asylum on Guerrero’s behalf he was ordered to leave. But his deportation was stayed under President Obama. Last month, however, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] summoned him to appear today with his Mexican passport in hand. His family panicked.
“He’s always taking care of the family. He’s not a bad man. He’s not a criminal,” said daughter Veronica Guerrero.
“He is an important part of my life. And if he went away that part of my life would just break down and I would never, I couldn’t say, ‘Oh, hi, grandfather. How was your day?'” said granddaughter Lizbeth Perez.
A scrum of TV cameras walked Guerrero to the door and he disappeared inside with attorneys who would ask ICE to stay his deportation while Guerrero applied for a special visa. Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcomed the crush of media.
“What you’re doing is you’re putting a face on what is treated as statistics, or as demons. You can see what Catalino looks like and you’ve heard how he lives,” Tobin said.
Then advocates waited for word. It took about an hour.
Rich Morales, policy director for PICO said, “Good news, he’s not going to be detained and deported today. But we need to keep on fighting to make sure he continues to be protected.”
The 60-year-old grandfather looked exhausted — but determined.
“I would like the president, if he’s watching all of this news, he should look into his heart and change the law and change his mind. Because what he is doing, it’s not just. There are a lot of people who he is deporting without having any good cause and no right,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero’s extension runs until May 22 when he’ll ask for a one-year stay of removal and a U-visa — generally granted to crime victims. His lawyer says Guerrero’s eligible as the victim of a home invasion in 2007.
“By promoting this policy you promote undocumented aliens working with law enforcement, and law enforcement will always want that,” said attorney Cesar Estela. “So our basis for relief from deportation is getting a U-visa certified.”
“I want all the people who are watching this to keep fighting because you need to fight,” Guerrero said.
Purists argue if you’re here illegally then you should leave, that ICE is just enforcing the law. But life is complicated, and complicated cases like Catalino Guerrero’s are not uncommon.