Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Ohio plan to move ahead with the deportation of Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez on Thursday, despite repeated pleas for leniency from his family, community members, and the local Catholic diocese.
Hernandez-Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, has spent the past 14 years caring for Juan, his 28-year-old stepson, who has both severe mental disabilities as well as limited mobility due to cerebral palsy. His impending deportation will leave his American-born wife Seleste Wisniewski as Juan’s sole caretaker—a role she says she is physically unable to perform.
“I can’t lift [Juan] up,” Wisniewski told Fox 8 Cleveland. “I can’t do it. My husband does all of that. I never thought I would have to think about that.”
Advocates for Hernandez-Ramirez had staged a last-minute campaign to persuade ICE to grant a stay of deportation before Thursday’s deadline. Officials from the agency denied the request, explaining that Hernandez-Ramirez had been deported several times before.
In 2015, Hernandez-Ramirez was granted a work visa—in part thanks to his role as caregiver to Juan—permitting him to stay in the country through this coming February, at which point, he was told, he could reapply for an extension.
“He has an approved I-130 visa, he has a work permit that does not expire until the end of February 2018,” Wisniewski told Fox 8, adding that her husband has never so much as received a traffic ticket during his time in the U.S. “He has credit, a driver’s license, a social security card.”
According to Wisniewski, when she asked ICE officials why her husband was being deported now, she was told “New president. New administration.”
I have reached out to ICE for comment about Mr. Hernandez-Ramirez’s deportation, and will update this story with their response.
“No ICE official can put a cap on the type of care my son deserves,” Wisniewski said in a text message sent to Ohio’s The Chronicle newspaper. “Has anyone stopped to think how they would like to be trapped in his body? His body don’t work for him, but his mind does. I have fought for him for 28 years. He deserves more than he gets, he deserves to be respected.
For Cleveland Catholic Diocese Bishop Nelson Perez, Hernandez-Ramirez’s case is emblematic of the larger problems with America’s immigration system.
“The threat of the deportation of Pedro is once again proof of how broken our immigration system has become, and how desperately it needs reform,” Perez explained in a letter to ICE asking for leniency for Hernandez-Ramirez.
Wisniewski said the prospects for Juan are grim if her husband is deported.
“People say I should just move to Mexico if Pedro goes, but Juan couldn’t survive there,” she said. “Look at what he goes through here. He would not make it in that country. I can’t believe my government is putting us through this. Do they have no heart, no compassion?”
Update, 5:38 PM: Late Thursday afternoon ICE emailed me the following statement:
Mr. Hernandez-Ramirez is a repeat immigration violator who has been removed from the U.S. on three separate occasions, beginning in 2001 and most recently on two occasions in 2013. Additionally, in 2001, he was allowed to voluntarily depart and later illegally re-entered the country.
In an exercise of discretion, ICE has allowed Mr. Hernandez to remain free from custody while timely finalizing his departure arrangements.