Deaf immigrant faces possibility of deportation

[Transcript] ALEX:

I’m here in Dallas, Texas at the Earle Campbell Federal Building. Up on the 10th floor is where the Immigration courtrooms are located. I just finished watching the second day of the immigration hearings for one Deaf client whose name is Eduardo. He is now facing possible deportation to Mexico. He has an attorney who is fighting for Eduardo to stay. Eduardo has a wife who is an American citizen with who he has 3 children. Now, I will show you different interviews with the client, his attorney and advocate.


Hello, I’m here with these two, Eduardo and his wife Brittany who is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. What’s happening now is he has been at a crucial immigration trial all day. He was also here all-day last Monday. Today, these two testified under oath and answered questions. The judge must now determine whether to issue an order of deportation or allow Eduardo to stay here. A stressful experience, I’m sure. I want to ask you how you’re feeling after finishing up with the hearings today. How are you feeling?


Whew, it’s tough going this process and I don’t know what will happen, but I’ll still fight and support my 3 kids’ father no matter what. My heart breaks and this case isn’t something to joke about.


She’s right. I’m trying to stay here for my 3 kids. I know it’s hard for my wife, she doesn’t want me to go to Mexico and I don’t want to go either. It’s better here compared to Mexico because I have a good life here with my wife. I have a car and a house. I can create a better future here. It isn’t funny at all. It’s hard to win a case and we still have to fight no matter what. I need to be here. These kids need me. That’s all there is to it.


That’s your focus.

That client, Eduardo, was born in Mexico. He moved to America at age 10. He lived in Michigan then he later moved to New Jersey. He’s experienced the gang life. He testified in court today about his prior involvement with a gang. He said it was for protection. He also testified that he has purchased 4 firearms in the past for another person. Eduardo said he never fired these firearms, but he bought them to supply his gangs. He was affiliated with two gangs. The judge asked him why he was involved with gangs. Eduardo replied that it was to protect himself from bullying. The judge also asked if Eduardo had ever shot a person or committed an act of violence. Eduardo responded with a “no”, but he did have a friend who had been shot to death. After their usual hearing procedures, they did place him under juvenile detention. It’s not a jail, rather it’s more of a shelter used for disciplinary reasons. Eduardo moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was 21. He said his life changed at that point. He had given up the gang life. He didn’t bring any guns along with him to Tulsa. He had moved on with a new life. Then something happened last year. The ICE arrested him. He said the ICE had been targeting those who have had prior gang involvement. He thinks his name may have come up from his time in the juvenile hearings. So, the ICE arrested him then he was jailed last year in April. He has stayed there until just recently in January 2019. He finally got out of jail on bond. He has an attorney from Oklahoma to advocate for him. He’s been out of jail since then, however, just this March, Eduardo got into a car with someone else who was driving in Oklahoma. He claimed that the driver was speeding resulting in them being pulled over by police. After police observed them, Eduardo said that more police started showing up. He got scared and then got out of the vehicle then ran away. He tried to escape on foot, but the police would swarm him and restrain him. After that arrest, his case was then referred, and now it’s a serious possibility that he may be deported.


On paper, he seems good but on the other side, there’s his history which is bad. They reviewed his case and decided to deport him. I’ve noticed that he cannot really openly state his case. As a hearing person, I’ve started to realize that there is so much to learn about the deaf culture, information about their language and experiences. This was just very different to me. I never knew any of this. I realized that if people could understand the person Eduardo is, not just his language but truly understand his experience growing up struggling with language deprivation. They would understand that these are the reasons behind his prior troubles, they would understand how he is eager to change his life if he gets to stay here in the United States.


While I observed their court proceedings, I’ve found it interesting learning how their system works. The immigration judge sitting up near the wall is Judge Dietrich Sims. To the judge’s left is the Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) along with a hearing interpreter sitting across from the CDI. Anything that the hearing interpreter says will be relayed by the CDI. From what I’ve seen, the CDI has been fairly clear! But there has often been instances where the communication process is delayed due to the quick exchanges between the attorneys and the judge. The CDI will be forced to intervene and figure out where to begin again. Also, sometimes when a Deaf person is testifying, they will not fully understand what is being said or the CDI interpreted a sentence that the Deaf witness doesn’t understand and will ask for clarification. There’s been a lot of delays because of these communication issues. I wonder if we have more Deaf immigration judges or Deaf attorneys, this would result in a smoother legal process. I wonder if we will see changes later in the future.


Today, in the courtroom, I saw that they have a Certified Deaf Interpreter with a hearing interpreter, both seated facing each other. Sometimes, there are interruptions in the courtroom because the interpreters are falling behind in the communication process. I wonder if these interpreters are having an effect on this legal process?


Definitely, big time, because sometimes when these lawyers and the judge can have these quick exchanges and these legal proceedings are expedited. For the CDI and the hearing interpreter who have to interpret and listen and process all this information, it does affect these court proceedings. It does make a very significant impact. And I want to add these interpreters have to work nonstop without break, though they do rotate with other interpreters, but they don’t get to have a mental break. They have to keep going until they finally get a 5, 10-minute break. It’s a tough task so we are hopeful for a good result a decision is made after the closing statements. We’re hopeful!


Being an immigrant, I feel very paranoid. This case isn’t a joke to me at all. These courts, this is serious business. I’ve been in jail for almost a year and it isn’t funny at all. Sitting behind bars. Being the only Deaf person in there, the only Deaf person I know in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have to try and fight for my case. I’m very hopeful!


He will stay here, that’s my feeling. He will be staying even if they don’t allow him to say. We’ll fight for him. I just want everyone to give Eduardo the support he needs, please.


Right, I hope you can support a Deaf immigrant like myself. It’s been a really hard time for me.

Leaving my wife alone while I’m in Mexico? That isn’t right at all. It’d be hard for us to stay in touch with each other. These kids need their father and how would they meet their father? It’s been hard. There are many, many people being sent to Mexico and I’d be the only Deaf person I know there. I don’t want to sign these papers. I don’t want to do it.


The judge has seemed rather neutral so far, but I read a few articles that Judge Sims, that’s his last name, he has said he’s very tough on immigration cases. He has a high percentage of deportation orders. But from today’s observations, he seemed to be supportive of both sides and asking plenty of questions. Now that this process has concluded, these are the next steps. The lawyer for the Deaf client will submit the final closing comments on their last 7 pages. Then 10 days later, the government prosecutor will submit their report as well in another 10 days. This means that before, on September 13, which is the deadline, they will make their final decision to either order Eduardo’s deportation or not. Even though the final decision is made, it’s possible to appeal the decision.


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