Miscommunication may lead to deportation

May 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A case of miscommunication could lead to the deportation of a young Guatemalan man. Immigration authorities have refused to hear his argument for political asylum -- something his mother was granted years ago.

Mario Luis Martin Mendoza was 14 years old when he first crossed the border into the U.S. and he was looking for his mother. A Mayan Indian, he spoke no English and only a few words in Spanish. His native language is Mam.

Mendoza told ABC7 that in 2002 he was picked up by Border Patrol agents, but couldn't understand them when they ordered him to appear at an immigration hearing. They spoke Spanish, but he didn't. When they let him go, he left New Mexico traveled around the U.S., and raised himself for the next five years.

"No trouble, no problem with the police, nothing," says immigration attorney Nancy Powell.

His attorney says in 2007 Mendoza returned to Guatemala to attend a cousin's funeral and while there, he says men in uniform beat him. He believes it was retribution for the fact that his father had sided with the guerillas during Guatemala's civil unrest.

Mendoza returned to the U.S., applied for political asylum, found his mother who has been granted political asylum, but he was denied an asylum hearing because of that earlier failure to appear. Authorities locked a tracking monitor on his ankle and told him he would be deported this week.

An anti-immigration activist says there are holes in the Mendoza's story.

"First of all, there are many people who claim they were persecuted back in Latin America for instance. If that were the case, why didn't they apply for political asylum in Mexico?" asks Yeh Ling-Ling from the Alliance for Sustainable USA.

Even so, Ling-Ling admits if it were her, she would give Mendoza his day in court.

On Monday afternoon, Mendoza reported to his immigration supervision office and when his immigration officer showed up, his attorney pleaded once more for a hearing.

"I've been told by his deportation officer that they will consider everything, which would be great if they would because I don't think the equities and all the factors in favor of Mario have been looked at," says Powell.

Asked for his reaction, a clearly overwhelmed Mendoza managed to say things were good.

Mendoza has been ordered to appear at the immigration office Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. and perhaps his have the opportunity to plead his case. He is getting a lot of support from the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant.


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