Eliseo Pereyra illegally entered the United States from Mexico in the mid-1990s. Ever since, he’s sought his piece of the American dream.
The now 47-year-old Xenia resident self-reported his status to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) several years ago and got a work visa.
Pereyra is learning English, got married, fathered a son and parented his wife’s daughter. His wife says he works as a chef at a Dayton restaurant, pays taxes and has no criminal record.
But unless something changes by his October hearing, Pereyra likely will be deported because — after years of approvals — ICE denied his latest motion to stay an order of deportation.
“I love my kids, my wife, my daughter,” Eliseo said Wednesday while crying. “I love this country. But I don’t know why the immigration no keeping me here.”
The Xenia family’s concerns come after a Butler County woman was taken into custody last week, moved to a Columbus-area detention facility, then transferred Tuesday to Louisiana, where she was awaiting deportation to Mexico.
An ICE spokeswoman said they couldn’t comment on Eliseo’s case.
Eliseo’s wife, Crystal, said her friends and family thought President Trump’s tough campaign talk about immigration was aimed at people who break the law.
“My understanding (was) the president said that he was only going to deport criminals, drug dealers, domestic violence (offenders), murderers and people like that,” said Eliseo’s wife, Crystal. “My husband is not that.”
Crystal Pereyra said their 11-year-old son has Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and needs physical and occupational therapy. She said their son’s doctor said any change in routine may cause serious problems.
“We were in total shock to find out that they did not grant his stay again and that they will be deporting him,” Crystal Pereyra said. “It’s been granted for the last 5-6-7 years. And he hasn’t done anything different. He’s still paying taxes, he’s still jumping through the hoops. He’s still paying the money to file everything.”
She said her husband is working as much as he can now because there are car payments, a mortgage and medical bills looming.
“He’s a mess,” she said. “He doesn’t know what’s going to happen to his son and wife. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him.”
The family was granted a slight reprieve Wednesday when they found out Eliseo’s hearing was pushed back from April 19 until October.
An immigration judge ordered Eliseo’s removal in 2005, and his motion to reopen the case was denied in 2011. Since then, though, he’s been granted yearly stays and been on supervision.
Pereyra’s immigration attorney, Allison Chan, said despite ICE’s Columbus office bending over backwards to help the family, that office said it’s the administration directing decisions.
“It’s going to impose extreme hardship on the family if Eliseo is not able to stay,” Chan said. “Deportation is kind of like getting diagnosed with cancer. It’s fatal for some cases, and you’re just trying to buy time and quality of life sometimes.”
Chan said denials of motions to stay are a common occurrence as part of the Trump administration’s push against non-legal residents.
“We have lines out the door to see us for consultations. Our phone has been nonstop for consultations. People are really scared,” said Chan, who works for the national immigration law firm Margaret Wong & Associates. “I’m seeing a lot more requests for evidence, denials, notice of intent to deny … I’ve seen a lot more denials of stays, and this is around the country.”
The attorney said legislators need to be aware of what’s happening “on the ground” with deportations.
“It’s not just building a wall, it’s not just increasing the budget to hire all of these officers,” Chan said. “It’s just not hitting home for our Congressional leaders that families are being separated.”
Crystal Pereyra’s friend, Donna McCray, said: “I would have never voted for Trump if I would have known this.”
Chan said that if he’s deported, Eliseo Pereyra will be permanently barred from ever getting a visa and returning to the United States.
“Taking people out of their homes, away from their kids and families, is not what our country is supposed to be like,” Crystal Pereyra said. “The kids, we need him, he’s part of our family, he’s our life.”
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office confirmed they are working with the family and “encourage any constituent in need of assistance with a federal agency to reach out to our office.”
Crystal Pereyra, 39, said her husband of 12 years came into her life when she was a single mother of a young child and was making bad decisions. She said Eliseo stepped up, helped raise her daughter and straightened her out.
Now, she said she needs someone to save him.
“He needs a miracle,” Crystal Pereyra said. “He needs a pardon. He needs somebody to step in, somebody to put the brakes on it.”
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Staff writer Caroline Reinwald contributed to this story.