Last week, I got an email from my friend Chris Casazza, a partner with the immigration firm Solow, Isbell and Palladino in Philadelphia. He reached out to tell me about something that had happened to a former client, and he hoped that I could tell the story.

Here is the part of Chris’ email that convinced me I needed to write this column:

“I want people to read about this, I want the average citizen to realize why there are so many people at the border claiming asylum, I want judges to know what they are doing when they deny these cases, I want government attorneys and ICE agents to know what they are doing when they label these people criminals and monsters. I want them to know they have blood on their hands.”

Cruz Eduardo Tinoco Salvador was born on May 3, 1997, in Mexico. By the time he was 14, he was forced into joining a gang, the Sur-13. After his daughter was born, and after realizing that there was another way of life, he abandoned the gang and eventually made his way to the United States. He crossed the border illegally, came to Pennsylvania and found work as a roofer. He joined a church, and devoted himself to his family. He thought he could outrun his past.

But it caught up with him on June 20, 2017, when ICE discovered he was illegally in the United States, and took him into custody. Cruz pleaded with the immigration judge for asylum, claiming that if he was sent back, his former gang would kill him. He had an expert witness, a retired U.S. lieutenant colonel who had spent years stationed in Latin America and who testified that he would very likely be tortured or even killed if he was deported to Mexico. The immigration judge at the York Detention Center ruled that Cruz was telling the truth. But he still denied the asylum request, finding that he didn’t qualify for protection under the letter of the law, a law made even more stringent and draconian by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Cruz was deported. On July 17th, 2019, he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in exactly the way he predicted he’d be killed when he testified in front of the judge.

Chris Casazza contacted me out of the same sense of frustration that so many immigration advocates experience when we hear people talk about “liars.” President Trump suggested as much last year when he tweeted, “We shouldn’t ... let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.” In other words, they’re “coached.”

In 25 years of practicing immigration law, I have never had to pull a story out of anyone. Despite what the Trump administration would have you believe, refugees are motivated by fear, not a job prospect, and they are telling the truth. Tragedy happens when we shut our ears.

Ten years ago, I had a client from Kenya. Peter had run for office, and was harassed by his political opponents. He came to the U.S. legally on a tourist visa, and immediately filed for asylum. The judge who heard his case said he was lying, that his claim was “frivolous,” and ordered him deported. One week after he arrived in Nairobi, that political opponent went to Peter’s house and killed him with a machete.

We cannot see into the soul of a person, and we cannot walk in their shoes. But we have an obligation to give them the benefit of the doubt when they provide enough proof that their lives are in danger.

It’s too late for Cruz Eduardo. It is too late for Peter, who was a devout Catholic and who is part of the rosary I pray each Sunday.

But it’s time we open our eyes and realize that we are our brothers’ keepers, and if we continue to act as if we aren’t, there is no damn way this country is ever going to be “great again.”

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(13) comments

JudyB

What part of "illegal" is it that people don't seem to understand and way too many don't care about? Those of us that are here legally have to suffer the consequences of breaking a law here in the good old USA and so should those that are coming here illegally! And those that are supporting and/or helping the illegals in coming to this country by breaking our laws are just as guilty as the illegal themselves.

HwyRovr

Another "compassionate conservative" heard from.

JudyB

Well Hwy and I guess I'm hearing from another judgemental liberal.? You guys and your labels, being against breaking the law has nothing to do with compassion! And coming into this country illegally is against the law! I can't believe you don't know that. But maybe you just choose to ignore it, like way too many.


VA172

Judy B. You just joined Squawkzilla's list of whom he attacks .


HwyRovr

"... of who..."

VA172

That all you got?


JudyB

VA172, thanks for the heads up. It's all good, their nonsense has been going on for almost three years now! They're great at labeling and judging, with no real substance to anything that they have to say.


Mr Lemons

What's the point of this columnist's opinion piece? That we should always give the person who requests asylum in the United States the "benefit of the doubt?" That if we don't that we have "blood on our hands?" Of the two cases cited, the Kenyan probably had the better argument for asylum. The Sur-13 gang member entered the United States illegally and didn't apply for asylum at the border. Travelled to Pennsylvania (where other family members lived). He didn't bring his daughter or partner/wife. He was arrested by ICE/police and noted by Homeland Security as a "high ranking" member of the Sur-13 street gang (cartel-affiliated) . He had a Sur-13 tattoo on his hand. When faced with deportation, he hired an expensive law firm (remember he's a roofer) and then he applied for asylum. ICE arrested more that 10,000 suspected gang members last year and each case probably has an associated story which may or may not be true. How much blood did this illegal immigrant have on his hands?


HwyRovr

"How much blood did this illegal immigrant have on his hands?" Possibly none, but we sure have his blood on our hands!

Can Of Corn

Typical reply from a moron.


VA172

Sad, but too bad. He had 20 years to do the right thing and become legal.


JudyB

I wholeheartedly agree!

JudyB

I just wanted to clarify that I'm not agreeing with the article , which I disagree with a thousand percent, I do wholeheartedly agree with VA 172!


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