Carlos Urrutia did the right thing, showing up at his court hearing to face a drunk driving case stemming from 2017.
Urrutia had been under the legal drinking limit, his attorney tells ThinkProgress, but was charged with a felony for striking a pedestrian, who suffered injuries. Urrutia did six months in Ramsey County jail, completing a rehab program which his lawyer says reflects Urrutia is "committed to resolving his problems with alcohol."
The judge in his case seemed to agree, and last week sentenced Urrutia to probation instead of prison. That's when things went wrong.
Two "burly" men who attended Carlos' sentencing hearing approached him once it was over and arrested him. After at first declining to prove or state who they were—"I don't need to present you with anything," one said, apparently devoid of irony—the men eventually identified themselves as "Immigration." In an exchange videotaped by friends who'd shown up to support Urrutia at his sentencing, one momentarily lifts his sweatshirt to flash a badge on his hip, then goes back to ordering everyone out of the elevator so they can take Urrutia away.
In mid-2017, even with his criminal drunk-driving case still pending, an immigration judge canceled a deportation order against Urrutia, saying his case met the "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" standard under federal law.
Urrutia immigrated to the United States and settled in Minnesota more than two decades ago. He's married, and the father to three U.S. citizens.
They're now weighing the prospect of a life without their father, who has often worked two jobs to support his family, or uprooting their life in America to move to Mexico; the kids play "on varsity sports teams" and enrolled in "leadership programs" in their local schools, according to a GoFundMe set up to support Urrutia's cause. The kids have never lived in Mexico, and Urrutia has made connections through church groups and the religious advocacy group ISAIAH.
"[Carlos] doesn't even speak Spanish well," a friend tells ThinkProgress.
The story convinced a local district court judge, whose ruling would've allowed Carlos to pursue green card status. The Department of Justice could've let that stand and moved on to worthier cases. Instead they fought the ruling in the Bureau of Immigration Appeals, and pursued a process that led to Urrutia's detention in Sherburne County Jail.
Urrutia's immigration lawyer filed an emergency request to stay his deportation, which friends fear could occur as soon as today. Urrutia's wife is in hiding, afraid she'd suffer the same fate if men like these ICE agents can find her.
The family's GoFundMe has raised nearly $6,000 to help pay for legal fees. If his efforts to fight deportation fail, a message posted Monday indicate some of it could go toward "uprooting his whole life and family and moving them to Mexico."
UPDATE: Urrutia has been "successfully granted a stay of deportation," according to a statement released by ISAIAH, and his immigration lawyer says Carlos "will not be deported today or this week."
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