INDIANAPOLIS - Jesus Hernandez came to Indianapolis from Mexico 20 years ago seeking a better life for his family. Today he’s one step away from deportation. The case has drawn a groundswell of support from those who see his plight as a perfect example of the nation’s broken immigration system.
To his family and his advocates, Hernandez represents just the kind of man that President Obama’s executive order on immigration last year sought to benefit: a hard-working, church-going family man who’s also undocumented. To federal immigration officials, however, Hernandez fits the profile of someone who should be deported.
Hernandez was arrested and charged with a DUI earlier this month after crashing his car into a utility pole. His 26-year-old son, Jesus Hernandez Junior, went to bail him out after a night in the Marion County Jail.
"They told me he was going to be released but then they told me immigration had a hold of him and he wasn’t going to be released," Hernandez Jr. said.
Because he had a prior DUI conviction nearly 10 years ago, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say they could consider Hernandez as a higher priority for deportation.
The Indianapolis Congregation Action Network or IndyCAN, a grassroots social justice group, is working with Hernandez’s family and church. St. Monica Catholic Church member Kathy Cohenour says supporters have made hundreds of calls to ICE requesting Hernandez’s release.
"To try to get people to see that this wasn’t something that should happen in secret and happen so quickly that nobody could say “wait a minute” that our people are trying to pay attention and realize that this kind of thing happens every day," Cohenour said.
The group says ICE shouldn’t be targeting family men, like Hernandez and that the Marion County Sheriff’s office should join hundreds of others that have stopped honoring detainer requests.
ICE calls Hernandez a Priority 2 enforcement and points to its new policy, enacted after President Obama’s executive order last year, redefining which unauthorized immigrants are priorities for deportation.
Other parts of Obama’s immigration order, that would have deferred deportation for parents and expanded the rights of undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children, are tied up in court, and thus offer no help for Hernandez’ case.
Hernandez Jr. and his friend, Guadalupe Pimentel Solano have been able to benefit from the 2012 deferred action policy, but it’s not a lot of comfort to Pimentel Solano.
"Technically, if Trump were to come in or something he could still take it away… and so it is something temporary… so even though we have DACA we’re still in limbo," Pimentel Solano said.
Hernandez is being held at a federal detention facility in Wisconsin, and on Thursday, a judge there is expected to decide his fate. He could be released, get a bond and a later court date or be deported. IndyCAN and St. Monica are planning a prayer vigil Thursday night no matter the outcome.