No Cheraw is not in Arizona! This small southeastern Colorado town rallied to the defense of a Mexican immigrant woman (mother of two US citizen children) facing deportation! Ten residents of this tiny rural Colorado town braved the 400 mile round trip from Cheraw, Colorado to a Denver Immigration Court deportation hearing to show their support for and testify on behalf of the Mexican immigrant woman. She had applied for cancellation of removal, which required among other things, a showing that her US citizen children would suffer extreme and exceptional hardship, if she were to be deported. At the deportation hearing the school superintendent, the special education teacher, the principal and others testified as to the tremendous progress her children had made in the schools and how the whole community of Cheraw stood to suffer if these children were taken away by their mother’s deportation.
It is safe to say at this deportation hearing, that no one expected to hear a story of academic success for these children, who were being raised in a poor, single parent family, with a non-English speaking parent. It is also safe to say, that no one expected to see an entire rural community come to fight for and to defend this Mexican family, the way the Cheraw community did. The immigration judge knew early on that this was a very special story, when he or she heard how: the drop out rate in Cheraw was 0%, how the youngest of the her children was doing well in main stream classes, even though he was found eligible for special education, how even though the family had no money/community members came up with money so they could participate in extracurricular activities, how both her sons had the expectation that they would graduate from college, and how when times where tough/community members somehow made sure the family’s propane tank was full.
The hearing concluded and the case was continued for two weeks for a ruling by the court on the cancellation application. Two weeks later, nervous does not describe my feeling knowing what was at stake with the judge’s decision. There had been testimony that deportation would result in the family having to return to Chihuahua City, a city in the middle of the drug cartel war. There was evidence the only place they had to go to in Mexico was a tiny house, they would share with an uncle addicted to drugs. The tension became worse as the judge appeared to be still struggling to make her decision. She stated how this was a heart wrenching case, but then she talked about her respect for Homeland Security, who opposed the cancellation request. She described how high the standard was and how difficult it is to meet the burden of exceptional and extreme hardship. Then she talked about how this was a special case and the unusual and overwhelming community support shown for my client and her family. Then she expressed her concern of being overturned by an appeal court, if she granted the relief.
Then still in the middle of making her ruling, she asked the attorney from the Department of Homeland Security, if they were still in opposition to the request for cancellation. The attorney who was present was a different attorney and not the attorney who had been present for the original evidentiary hearing. He stated he did not know much about the case, but he felt obligated to continue with their objection. He then requested to go off the record and he may or may not have made some comment, “that there was not much likelihood of DHS appealing the judge’s decision to grant the cancellation of removal.” The judge then says something to the affect of “Let’s do this then” and she then goes back on the record and grants the relief, meaning the mom is not deported and her children can continue to pursue their American dream.
What message(s) do we take from this? There are many, including:
- How fortunate these children were to have the mother that they did,
- How it really does take a village to raise a child, in this case Cheraw,
- In these times of anti-immigrant hysteria, not everyone is buying into the racist and anti-immigrant hysteria we hear so much about,
- The legal system can work the way it should, when the community makes its presence felt,
- Last but not least, sometimes as a lawyer you can impact people’s lives for the better!