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Deportation Case Highlights Subtleties of US Immigration Law

by Aline Barros

After more than a decade without visiting family in the Dominican Republic, Mickel Mesa thought the year-end holidays would be a good opportunity to share Christmas with his loved ones. It was. Until he arrived back in the U.S.

Mesa took the trip to the Caribbean nation with his sister in December, 2013. According to him, it was a week of “great food” and “fun” shared with people he had not seen since his teen years. They returned after five days.

When Mesa arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Dec. 29, 2013, he did what any green card holder would have done: he walked to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and applied for readmission to the United States showing his green card and passport. Mesa was 28 years old.

But federal authorities detained and arrested him. Mesa had pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in 2006, a felony under New Jersey law. He had been sentenced to do community service and to five years of probation. He completed both before the 2013 trip.

Nevertheless, he was arrested under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act. The bill, passed in 1996 and signed by former President Bill Clinton, expanded deportation groups to include a broad range of minor offenses.


Paromita Shah, associate director at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, says many green card holders do not know that even if they serve their time for felony offenses committed, they can still receive a second punishment in immigration court.

“Our laws deport green card holders in many instances for facts that occurred many years ago,” she says.

Mesa was held in the Essex County Correctional Facility for about a year and deported to the Dominican Republic in January 2015.

“I had finished my probation. I had finished everything… I did many things as far as community services… I was never told back in 2006 [that] I would be deported out the country,” Mesa told VOA via social media.

Mesa moved to the U.S. with his family when he was eight years old. Like many immigrants, his parents had wanted to provide a better life for both him and his younger sister, Genesis.

“I never asked to be taken [to the U.S.]; I never knew. We just picked up and left. … But my parents were ignorant. Until this day, my mother hasn’t become a citizen,” he says.

To apply for citizenship, an eligible green card holder must pay $680 upfront to cover the cost of naturalization forms and biometrics, says U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Officials, however, have proposed raising the fee to $725 to cover costs.

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June 1, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated December 17, 2017 at 1:23 AM
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