Daniel Maher was arrested last month by ICE agents. He is currently at a detention center in Southern California awaiting deportation to China. The Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco called his imminent deportation a highly political move and one which makes no sense.
China continues with its huge corruption crackdown. It's so widespread that the Chinese government has asked the U.S. for help.
"They want the U.S. to hand over about 100 or so high level Chinese government officials who are living in the U.S. but are wanted in China to face prosecution for corruption charges," said Jenny Zhao with the Asian Law Caucus.
So, what does Hayward resident Daniel Maher have to do with this crackdown? Immigrant groups claim he and other Chinese Americans with criminal backgrounds and on deportation lists are pawns of both governments.
"As a tradeoff, the U.S. is asking China to accept all of these other people who have no ties to corruption or bribery or anything like that for deportation," said Anoop Prasad with the Asian Law Caucus.
Twenty years ago, Maher was convicted of robbery. He was only 19 at the time. He served five years and was then ready to be deported. But at that time, China didn't want him and U.S. immigration officials had no choice but to let him go.
Maher turned his life around and has been the director of the recycling program at the Ecology Center in Berkeley.
Still, ICE officials maintain: "As a convicted aggravated felon, Mr. Maher remains an enforcement priority based on his criminal history."
Immigrant advocacy groups and some of Maher's co-workers criticized ICE for trying to deport him while Francisco Sanchez, with a lengthy criminal record, fell through the cracks.
"The ICE detainee program once again has shown how severely flawed it is by forcibly removing a person like Daniel from his home and his workplace," said Deborah Beyea with Ecology Center.
Maher's family left China was he was only a toddler and he's never been back. In fact, his brother, who was at the press conference, told reporters that Maher doesn't speak the language and would be lost if he were to be deported to China.