Salinas Dreamer faces possible deportation under uncertain circumstances

A Salinas teenager is now part of a larger discussion of who should face deportation, and how authorities reach this decision, during President Donald Trump’s tenure.

19 year-old Juan Manuel Martinez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient (or Dreamer), had been charged with misdemeanor trespassing last month, after driving a friend to jail and being caught with marijuana and meth.

While the drug charges were dropped, Martinez served a sentence for trespassing. His family expected him to return home after a judge sentenced him. But they found out Immigration and Customs Enforcement “picked him up and transported him to immigration court,” according to Martinez’s attorney Miguel Hernandez.

Martinez’s attorneys stated the Dreamer has no other criminal record or apparent gang affiliation, as first reported by Claudia Melendez of the San Jose Mercury News.

Hernandez told KSBW that deputies asked Martinez if he or family members were involved in gangs, to which the teenager said “yes” without specifying whether he or his family was gang-affiliated. Chief deputy sheriff for corrections at the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, John Mineau, told the Mercury that Martinez was flagged by ICE for gang affiliation and drug possession.

Martinez, who arrived undocumented to the US as a child and received relief from President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action, is now being held in the Yuba County Jail, which houses ICE detainees subject to deportation. Blanca Zarazua is also an attorney for Martinez, and the Mercury wrote “her client [said] he was being deported for being a gang member and because his DACA had expired. But neither is true, [Zarazua] said.”

Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal wrote a January article in the Monterey Herald that immigration status won’t be considered by deputies, in the effort to assure residents that they would not face deportation for reporting a crime. But he also asserted, with regards to people booked at his jail and later turned over to ICE after completion of their legal commitment, “Each person ICE took into custody had been arrested in our community by local law enforcement for a criminal act and not an immigration violation.”

Bernal assured that these detainees fell within the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), an Obama-era policy enabling federal immigration officials to work with local officials to apprehend noncitizen criminals convicted of offenses listed under the DHS civil immigration enforcement priorities, a November 2014 memorandum issued by then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, appointed by Obama.

But on February 20, current DHS Secretary John Kelly signed a new memorandum implementing President Donald Trump’s January 25 Executive Order No. 13768, which terminated PEP. Trump’s Order also explicitly threatened sanctuary localities – areas that did not execute federal immigration laws to detain undocumented immigrants, unless mandated by law.

Trump’s Executive Order, however, was halted by the Federal District Court of the Northern District of California last Tuesday. In his decision, Judge William H. Orrick ruled that Trump’s Order violated the 5th and 10th amendments, as well as the separation of powers principles, adding “Given the nationwide scope of the Order, and its apparent constitutional flaws, a nationwide injunction is appropriate.”

It’s unclear what warrants Martinez’s detention by ICE, since the Executive Order has an injunction against it and there has been no update if Obama-era policies apply to this case, as Bernal stated prior to the halted Executive Order.

Under PEP’s list of offenses warranting apprehension, detention and removal, Priority 1 – the highest level of threats to national security, border security and public safety – includes “aliens convicted of an offense for which an element was active participation in a criminal street gang.” Priority 2 does state deportation for “aliens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses” as well as “aliens convicted of a ‘significant misdemeanor’” which does cite drug distribution or trafficking, although Martinez never served a sentence for either. There is a provision in this Priority for undocumented people who “have significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs” but nothing looks to have been presented to Martinez’s attorneys.

Section D of the memo “requires [DHS] personnel to exercise discretion based on individual circumstances” and adds factors for officers to consider, which include circumstances involving the offense committed, length of time since offense, time of stay in the country, family situation or “humanitarian factors.”

In an interview with the Associated Press last Friday, the president said Dreamers, which includes Martinez, should “rest easy,” although he stated that “We are not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.”

The Mercury and KSBW coverage say Martinez has a bond hearing Tuesday in San Francisco.

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