Unless something changes soon, Emilio will have to appear at 7 a.m. on Feb. 8 at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City to be deported to Argentina. He will arrive virtually penniless, with few contacts. “All my family is here in the United States,” he said. He’s hoping that many of the people in Saugerties and the surrounding area who supported him will make the trip to show their support – and possibly influence immigration authorities.
“It’s looking very bad,” he said.
Just over a year ago, immigration agents seized Emilio, put him in prison and prepared to deport him to his native Argentina. His sister also faced deportation, though the process was not as sudden. Only the intervention of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who secured a temporary stay, held off the deportation. Hinchey also introduced a private bill that would provide amnesty for Emilio and Analia, but that bill has not made it out of committee.
Though it is true their 90-day visas had long-since expired, Emilio said the deportations are payback for refusing to continue working as undercover agents. He and his sister were promised by immigration authorities that they could receive permanent status if they reported on Spanish-language drug dealers. Both worked undercover, providing information the government wanted. However, as the demands grew they found they could not meet them. “They wanted me to infiltrate major drug gangs,” said Emilio. “There was no way I could do this. There’s not a lot of big drug gang activity here.”
Emilio said he was told the authorities had obtained a deportation order for the couple in 2006, but had not executed it until last year. That, he said, is illegal. However, he does not have the right to challenge the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s actions in court because of the type of visa he used, which waives the right to challenge proceedings.
The brother and sister both work extra jobs to meet the expense of fighting the deportation orders. Maya said he has sold his SUV and a car, as well as many other personal possessions to raise money to pay lawyers.
Analia married Tyrone Chrisjohn of Saugerties on July 23. This could influence the courts to grant her permanent residency, but there’s no guarantee. She must prove that the marriage is not a ploy to stave off deportation, Emilio said. The fact that the couple has a son may help, he said.
Former Ulster County Legislator Gary Bischoff, who has supported the couple through their troubles, said he believes Analia will prevail in court and be allowed to stay. He also expressed hope that a new attorney representing the couple will be able to secure permanent residency or an extension for Emilio – though this is more problematic. Emilio is married, but his wife is not an American citizen. They have a daughter, Valencia, who was born in the United States.
After 13 years in the United States, Emilio said he feels this is home. He and his sister have built up a business and become members of the community. Emilio is a firefighter. When the police need a translator, Analia has frequently helped. Their restaurant is a popular spot for lunch.
Emilio expressed bitterness at the ability of well-heeled drug dealers to hire expensive lawyers and hold up deportation proceedings, while he faces deportation despite having helped the authorities root out drug dealers.
“I pay my taxes, and I obey the laws. But I have no right to appeal my deportation in court,” he said.
With only a month left, Emilio feels the tension increasing. He still hopes for a stay, but it seems less and less likely.