Honduran man facing deportation has two days to make his case
An undocumented Honduran national will likely face deportation on Friday unless the federal immigration court reopens his case based on extenuating circumstances.
Darlin Mendoza has been living in the Philadelphia for the last 11 years with his four children and wife, all of whom are U.S. citizens. Juana Rodriguez, Mendoza’s wife, has a chronic heart condition. Her disability puts the family’s financial livelihood largely on the back on Mendoza’s construction job.
Mendoza might have remained under the radar if he hadn’t gotten into a physical fight with another man last year. He was charged with simple assault. After a year waiting in jail before his trial, Mendoza was granted credit for time served.
But it was already too late.
Because it was violent in nature, the arrest sent a red flag to immigration enforcement, and designated Mendoza an “enforcement priority.”
“We understand that because of this conviction Mr. Mendoza falls into a priority category,” Nicole Kligerman from New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia said. “However, we believe that Mr. Mendoza's circumstances are exceptional such that he should be granted prosecutorial discretion and released from detention so that he can continue to care for his wife and young children. Mr. Mendoza is deeply rooted in his community and is not a threat to public safety.”
Two weeks ago, Mendoza was on his way to work in Delaware when he was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was transferred to York County Detention Center shortly after, where he remained until Monday morning. Marco Pignone, Mendoza’s lawyer, confirmed that his client has been transferred to a 72-hour holding facility in Louisiana.
Early Wednesday morning, 20 members of Mendoza’s family were denied access to the ICE offices in Center City, where they had hoped to speak with an official about Mendoza’s case. They sat in a prayer vigil outside of the building for two hours, but ICE did not respond in any way.
Mendoza had previously requested a “stay of deportation” — an legal move that would allow him to stay in the country another year before returning to Honduras — but the motion was denied in court.
Pignone is now filing a second motion to reopen the case in immigration court. Once filed, Pignone says the motion could automatically establish an extended deportation time, due to the extenuating circumstances of Mendoza’s case.
“I think probably for that reason the judge will try to decide it very quickly,” Pignone said, adding that this is Mendoza’s second legal attempt at reopening his case.
But Pignone also added that immigration court judges aren’t required to act quickly. First, the government attorneys have 15 days to respond to the motions, and then the judges have an indeterminate time to issue their ruling.
“We are definitely feeling the pressure of the countdown,” Kligerman said.
Mendoza’s wife has undergone invasive open heart surgery, and is scheduled for another operation this year. For three of their children, Mendoza is the sole financial provider.