Pittsburgh Demands Freedom for Martín Esquivel-Hernandez During #HereToStay

Activists with the Bring Martín Home campaign hold an orange banner demanding the return of the father of three.

On Saturday, January 14, immigrants are heading to Washington D.C. in a national day of action focused on immigrants. United We Dream called for the #HereToStay national day of action to lift up the message that, “regardless of what the Trump administration thinks it is going to do, immigrant communities are here to stay and will push back against deportation, racial profiling, and criminalization of migration. Solidarity rallies will be taking place across the nation, including in Pittsburgh. Here, the rally will be lifting up the case of Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, who is danger of being deported by ICE — even though, according to the agency’s own guidelines, he should not be.

Hundreds of Pittsburghers are calling on ICE Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci to use her power of discretion to reunite Martín with his family. Martín’s wife, Alma, is traveling to Detroit to speak at a #HeretoStay rally in Adducci’s home town.

Here’s what has happened with Martín’s case during the last few weeks.

On December 30, 2016, Latinx activist and father Martín Esquivel was granted a plea deal by U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose that dismissed a felony charge and replaced it with a misdemeanor for entering the United States to be with his family. In making this decision, Judge Ambrose exercised her own discretion in regards to federal sentencing guidelines. Those guidelines stated that the sentencing fell between the three to 10 month period. She sentenced Martín to 89 days so that he could avoid the immigration consequences of a 90 day sentence. Under her sentencing, Martín is NOT priority for criminal enforcement activities. The plea agreement also commuted Martín’s sentence for time already served.

However, just one week after family and activists celebrated this hard-won victory, Martín Esquivel was transferred to ICE custody on Friday, January 6, 2017. He is now being held in ICE detention at the Tiffin jail in Ohio.

ICE is not held accountable to any government agency, and does not even hold itself accountable to its own guidelines. There is no credible reason for Martin to have been transferred to Ohio, but the move places him under the jurisdiction of Rebecca Adducci, ICE’s Field Office Director in Detroit, who oversees all cases in Michigan and Ohio. Activists working in support of the Esquivel family were accustomed to addressing Thomas Decker, the ICE Field Office Director for Philadelphia, who has his own history of failing to address human rights violations committed by the agency. Adducci acts as a rogue agent, failing to comply with ICE’s own internal procedures. The immigration agents she oversees in Detroit are abusers who have engaged in tactics such as targeting and arresting parents while they are dropping their children off at school — despite a 2011 promise from the ICE national director that this would not happen. One of Adducci’s agents was put back on duty three days after murdering a young Black man in front of his family. Her work is so sloppy that she has even been reprimanded by the usually-unaccountable National Agency for her failure to comply with their policies.

Under ICE’s own guidelines, Martín is not a priority for deportation under the Department of Homeland Security. “Adducci’s decision could either be an act of humanity and justice, or a destructive model for what to expect under the new administration,” says Christina Castillo, an organizer with the Thomas Merton Center who is closely involved with the Bring Martín Home campaign.

Since the government will not hold ICE accountable, the public needs to pressure Adducci’s office to reunited an innocent father with his family.

Her phone number is 313–568–6036.

Her email address is: Rebecca.J.Adducci@ice.dhs.gov

“Demand that she reunite Martín Esquivel Hernandez with his family and community in Pittsburgh. Enough is enough. Pittsburgh refuses this normalization of mass deportations,” says Monica Ruiz, an organizer with Casa San Jose in Pittsburgh.

ICE books flights for undocumented people on Tuesdays, and when Martín arrived at the detention facility in Ohio on January 6, he was told that he would be “leaving” on Tuesday, January 10. Over the weekend, letters and phone calls flooded in to ICE’s Detroit office — from labor and faith organizations, human rights leaders, and individuals. Activists also flooded the voicemail of Tim Ward, Rebecca Aducci’s assistant, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bring Martín Home campaign delivered a petition with 1,300 signatures to ICE’s Detroit office, asking for her to use prosecutorial discretion and not deport him to a dangerous and violent situation the Esquivel family fled in Mexico.

ICE does not share details about when a person is being deported, and it is not uncommon for ICE to inform the family after a person has been deported.

“We have heard of many cases where they will process paperwork on the way to the plane,” said Gabriel McMorland, an activist with the Bring Martín Home Campaign.

On Tuesday, January 10, activists filed for a stay of deportation. This documentation is necessary for ICE to fully consider a request for prosecutorial discretion, and it lists reasons why deportation should be delayed.

ICE did not respond to the legal documentation, but issued a media statement using vague language that does not identify Martín’s misdemeanors. ICE did not send this to Martín or Martín’s attorney. Rather, they issued it to the public, revealing specific details of Martín’s case.

Martín’s only crime is wanting to be with his family. In failing to specify that Martín’s misdemeanors are related to immigration, ICE is seeking to paint him as a criminal. Here is the statement from ICE:

“Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez has two misdemeanor convictions, one from 2012 and 2017, and federal authorities removed him to Mexico four times since 2011, with the latest removal taking place in 2012. As a result, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has designated Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez’s case as a priority for immigration enforcement.”

At the very least, this indicates that ICE is not willing to fairly adjudicate Martín’s case, further damning themselves as a rogue agency.

Meanwhile, ICE has not communicated to Martín’s attorney any official denial of his application for stay.

As stated by activists from the Bring Martín Home campaign, ICE’s statement “flies in the face” of the US Attorney Soo Song and US District Judge Donetta Ambrose’s decision to reduce Martín’s charge to a misdemeanor, making him a non-priority for immigration enforcement.

“We strongly urge ICE to take the time to listen to our community and to not ignore the Department of Homeland Security’s clearly stated policy regarding detention and removal of undocumented Immigrants. Under that policy, Martín is clearly NOT a priority for enforcement, and should be allowed to come home to Pittsburgh,” the campaign wrote in their response to ICE’s media statement.

In Pittsburgh, the rally for the National Day of Action will take place at 2:30 pm at St. Catherine’s Church in Beechview, 1810 Belasco Ave. Citizens are encouraged to come support a loving father who has been fighting for the improvement in the lives others in his community for the last five years. The Facebook event is listed here.

In his letter to ICE, begging to be permitted to be with his family for Christmas, Martín Esquivel-Hernandez wrote: “The only thing that I have done was love my family, and protect them. I wanted to live a life of dignity, of peace, of love, of happiness — just like anyone else would want. I am not a criminal. The only crime I’ve committed was to love and fight for my neighbors, as if these strangers were my family. That is not a crime. There is nothing bad about doing that.”