Ricardo Fierro had felt for weeks like someone was following him even before immigration officials knocked on his door last Tuesday to take him into custody on a deportation order he received 20 years ago.
Several vans were parked in his driveway that morning. His wife Maria opened the door. Scared, Ricardo called the police. But the people at the door were law enforcement officials.
They were there because Ricardo had stayed in the United States well past the visa he received in 1994 when he came here at 16 years old. Deported, Ricardo and his family returned to the United States.
In 1998, an immigration judge signed off on a deportation order that was never executed. Meanwhile, he graduated from Case High School with honors in 1999, served as the regional director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and owns his own business called Fierro Enterprises.
Twenty years later, the immigration officials at Ricardo’s door last Tuesday were there to follow through on that order.
Executing the order
Ricardo’s oldest daughter, Lizbeth wasn’t there at the time officials from ICE showed up at her father’s door. She was staying with her grandmother who lives nearby. But Maria told her what had happened.
“They asked for my dad to come out, saying that they wanted to make sure he was the man they were looking for,” Lizbeth said.
Not thinking he was in any sort of legal trouble, Ricardo walked outside and never returned to his home.
“They asked him about his legality. And he told them he didn’t have papers. They tried to ask him more questions and he told them, ‘Talk to my attorney,’” she said. “And they put him in handcuffs and just took him away.”
He was taken to Dodge Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin.
Family speaks out about Ricardo’s deportation
During a rally held Tuesday at Monument Square to raise awareness of Ricardo’s case, Kevin Layde, Ricardo’s attorney, pointed out that his client’s only run-in with the law was for driving without a license in 2015 and in February 2018.
But because Ricardo had the open deportation order, immigration officials didn’t need a reason to detain him. They just needed to execute the order.
“He’s lived an exemplary life in this country and he has been a citizen in every sense other than his immigration status,” Layde said.
Following the rally, Layde explained that he is seeing a distinct change in how President Donald Trump is directing ICE officials to enforce immigration laws.
“Clearly Ricardo wasn’t on their radar for 20 years and now he is,” Layde said.
Trump administration cracks down on illegal immigration
Immigration officials have conducted 60 percent more employer audits between Oct. 1 and May 4 compared to the same period last year. And that trend is expected to continue, according to a story by the Associated Press.
According to the story:
“Derek Benner, head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, told The Associated Press that another nationwide wave of audits planned this summer would push the total ‘well over’ 5,000 by Sept 30. ICE audits peaked at 3,127 in 2013.”
At the federal level, the Appropriations Committee Tuesday pushed back on Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy by making several amendments to legislation. If approved, the provisions would allow for funding of alternatives to detention for immigrant families, according to a story by Arizona Republic.
According to the story:
The $7 million for family case management accompanies an additional increase of $28 million for alternatives to detention in the base bill. Alternatives, such as telephone monitoring, periodic check-ins at ICE offices, being released on bond or GPS monitoring, provide a way to ensure that people who aren’t detained will participate in immigration court proceedings.
What happens to Ricardo now
Layde submitted a stay of removal, which asks the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials to stop the deportation process.
If it is granted, an immigration judge could set a bond amount that could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. If Ricardo can post the bond, he could be released on that bond while he awaits a court date. But that process could take years because of the backlog in cases.
If the stay is not granted, Ricardo could be deported immediately because of the existing deportation order.
During the rally, Ricardo’s 9-year-old daughter Janell Fierro, pleaded with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) to stop her dad’s deportation.
“He is a good man and deserves to live free and safe with us — his family — in the USA,” she said.