Monday, March 14, 2011

U.S. vs. Augie Garcia

In January 1999, my oldest brother Augie Garcia was deported to Mexico. When Augie was first incarcerated in 1997, I was finishing law school and studying for the California Bar Exam. I had no experience or understanding of immigration laws. So when Augie told me he had an INS hold and would have to appear before an immigration judge for a deportation hearing, I had no idea our family's life would forever change.

I contacted various criminal attorneys in Ventura County, but no one understood immigration law, let alone recent changes and their impact on my brother's future. So I researched the law myself and found out Augie's conviction was defined as an "aggravated felony" with NO relief or defense from deportation.

The hardest conversation I've ever had with Augie was when I had told him he would be deported -- and we had no way to fight it. Augie was devasted. He said, "What about my four children? They are all U.S. citizens. What about my wife? She's also a U.S. citizen. What about my military service? I'm a Vietnam Vet, honorably discharged from the Navy." All I could say to Augie was that none of that mattered. Immigration judges no longer had discretion to consider this. His deportation would be certain.

Twelve years have passed since Augie was deported. I am now licensed to practice law and have a busy immigration law practice in Ventura, California. I specialized in deportation defense and in assisting victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes. I am reminded of Augie everyday as I fight the deportation of other immigrants, and I feel I owe it to him and his children to pursue his case. I hope that through this blog, I will bring attention to the practice of deporting U.S. veterans, and share my journey as I work to bring my brother home.

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