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Immigrant Law Center mourns forced departure of Jacobo Gabriel-Tomas

ST. PAUL -- The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota on Wednesday released a statement on the deportation Jacobo Gabriel-Tomas, Worthington resident of 24 years:...

ST. PAUL - The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota on Wednesday released a statement on the deportation Jacobo Gabriel-Tomas, Worthington resident of 24 years:

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) denied a stay of deportation to Jacobo Gabriel Tomas on September 25, ordering him to leave his home, family, church, and community in Worthington and go to Guatemala-the country he fled almost 25 years ago. Despite an amazing outpouring of support from community and elected officials, ICE rejected all of our efforts at prosecutorial discretion. With no legal options left, Jacobo made the difficult decision to leave. As his attorneys and friends, we grieve with Jacobo and his family and community.

On behalf of Jacobo and his family, thank you to all of the hundreds of people who called and emailed the ICE office, asking them to exercise prosecutorial discretion and allow Jacobo to remain here with his family. We appreciate your support and concern. We appreciate the efforts made by Senator Al Franken, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Tim Walz, Minnesota State Representative Rod Hamilton, Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle, and other elected officials, community members, and supporters. 

"Jacobo is the kind of person we should welcome to legal residence and citizenship, not someone who should be sent to an uncertain future in a country he has not seen since he was a child," said ILCM Executive Director John Keller. "If he does not deserve leniency and exercise of discretion, who in the world does?

"The cruel impact of this decision on Jacobo and his family and community demonstrates the need for reform of a broken immigration system. There is neither sense nor justice in ripping apart a family and expelling a productive, contributing member of our community."

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"This decision demonstrates the heartlessness of rote application of immigration laws," said Kathy Klos, an attorney with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) who has represented Jacobo for years. "Justice requires thought and compassion, not robotic application of the harshest penalties possible under law." 

Jacobo has lived in the United States for almost 25 years, for all of his adult life. In 1992, at the age of 16, Jacobo fled Guatemala to escape the violence of civil war and genocide. He applied for asylum but, after many years of fighting within the system, ultimately was denied in 2002.

By that time, he was married, with two children and another on the way. Jacobo's four U.S. citizen children depend on him and love him very much. He has worked hard, and his only brush with the law apart from minor traffic tickets came when he was charged with using false work documents twelve years ago. He paid a fine for that, pleading guilty to two misdemeanor offenses. 

Before and after that time, he worked hard, paid taxes, and earned a place as a valued leader in St. Mary's Catholic Church and in Worthington, the community where he lives and owns a home. U.S. immigration authorities recognized that he was a good person and not a priority for deportation. They exercised prosecutorial discretion to grant him work authorization and year-to-year withholding of deportation.

This year, all that changed. Under the Trump administration, orders went out to make nearly everyone a priority for deportation. Jacobo's deep roots in Worthington, his years of contributions to the community, his children-that all meant nothing any longer.

Over the last several months, ICE has denied his multiple requests for prosecutorial discretion. In September, ILCM filed a motion for a stay of deportation, based on three grounds:

  1. Jacobo faces possible life and death circumstances in Guatemala, one of the most dangerous countries in the world;
  2. Jacobo is an upstanding community member and father, who is an asset, not a threat to the United States; and
  3. Jacobo is an original DREAMer who will qualify for the DREAM Act that President Trump and leaders of Congress are committed to passing. 

ICE denied that motion. Despite Senator Al Franken's persistent, direct advocacy with the ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan, he ultimately refused to consider or even acknowledge any of the reasons for exercising discretion in Jacobo's case. With no further legal options, Jacobo has said goodbye to his family and faces an uncertain future in Guatemala.

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