by Bob Geary
[And one final Update 6: Glenn Fogle just emailed to say that Pedro Guzman is free at last. The government, on due consideration, has decided not to appeal the judge's pro-Pedro ruling. So after 20 months, this horror show is over.]
[Update 5: No sooner did I put up that last update than I see that Emily tweeted an hour ago: "Pedro is being released right now!!!!!"
Whether that's on bond or because the government decided not to appeal, I don't know. Great news!]
[Update 4: Early Tuesday, Emily followed up with an email: "After 20 months of detention, we had Pedro's final court date yesterday. After two hours of witness testimony and an hour deliberation by the judge, the judge granted Pedro relief. We sobbed when he said the words. He was very specific in his decision. HE said that Pedro's deportation would result in extreme hardship of he, Logan and I AND witnesses and evidence proved that he has GOOD moral character! That is what we had to prove for him to get relief. Unfortunately, the government attorney reserved the right to appeal. This means that he is not in my arms yet but he will be soon. We expect him to be free within a few weeks. I will keep you all updated. Thank you for all of your support!!!!"
[I spoke with the Guzman's lawyer, Glenn Fogle, later. Fogle said Judge Dan Trimble granted Pedro Guzman's application for a "special rule cancellation" under NCARA (see below), in effect giving Guzman a green card. However, the government lawyer in the case "reserved appeal," which has the effect of staying the judge's decision indefinitely. Guzman may have to remain in detention, Fogle said, until the government's appeal is heard or, in the alternative, for up to 30 days if the government, after thinking it over, decides not to pursue an appeal.
[Or, Fogle said, the judge may grant his application for bond (bail) in the case and let Guzman go home for the time being. Emily Guzman is hoping that will happen and after the hearing, she stayed in Georgia for at least one more day.
[The government's lawyer is Aminda Katz, assistant chief counsel for the Department of Homeland Security in the Atlanta region, according to Fogle.
[An angry Fogle called the government's refusal to acknowledge defeat in this case "unconscionable," saying there are no grounds for a successful appeal. The government has 30 days to decide whether to file one, Fogle added, and Katz wouldn't tell him yesterday whether she thinks that will happen. He said he will ask her again very soon, possibly today.]
[Update 3: At about 11 p.m. Monday, Emily Guzman sent this news in a tweet: "Pedro was granted relief today! The government attorney is reserving the right to appeal BUT Pedro should be FREE soon!" I coudn't reach her by phone today; I'll try again in the morning, but for now, that's all I know.
[Update 2: The next, and perhaps final hearing in Pedro Guzman's case is scheduled for Monday, May 16 at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA — Pedro's prison for most of the last 20 months. It will probably start at around 12:30 p.m., Emily Guzman says. "[D]uring this last week before the final court date, I am a ball of nerves," she's written on her blog. "I want to be happy, hopeful, and optimistic but this year and a half has scarred me. I really, truly do not know what will happen that day. There is so much riding on every word of every witness and every sentence of the lawyer. The words will influence the freedom of my husband. He will be freed or sent to a country he does not know."]
[Update: The mistreatment of Pedro Guzman makes the case for the DREAM Act as well as anything could, but his appeal to avoid deportation doesn't depend on new legislation. He's applying for relief under the Nicarguan Adjustment and Central America Relief Act (NACARA), for which it seems he would qualify. For why he hasn't been freed so far, read Emily Guzman's account on her Bring Pedro Home website — and do listen to the 7:00 video clip below.]
For the last 20 months, Pedro Guzman has been in prison for the crime of — no crime. Federal immigration authorities may have him deported. Why? They don't need a why. Meanwhile, his wife Emily, an American citizen, fights for Pedro's freedom from their home in Durham. And their son Logan, now 4, wonders why the bad guys took his daddy. The bad guys are us — our government.
Pedro was only 8 years old when he entered the United States. This is his story told by his wife, Emily Guzman.
How it all began…
Approximately 3 years ago, Pedro's mother went in to the immigration office for her permanent residency interview. Our biggest mistake, in hindsight, was not sending a lawyer with her. She is older and her memory is not great. In the interview, she made a mistake and was denied permanent residency. Pedro was then sent a Notice to Appear in Court by immigration authorities. The problem occurred when they sent the Notice to Appear to the wrong address even though they had the correct address. They had sent him his work visa and other paperwork to his correct address earlier that same year. When he did not appear to the court date, because he did not receive the order to appear in court, he was issued an order of deportation. The order of deportation was also sent to the wrong address. We found out when he was denied his work visa.
On her website, Emily Guzman states the case for Pedro with a deeply held belief in American justice that says this can't be happening, and once the authorities realize that it is happening they'll surely act to make things right. It's heart-breaking to read her 20-month long account of how the authorities haven't acted yet. A critical hearing in Pedro's case is scheduled for this Monday, May 16.
The only local coverage of this case has been in Spanish-language newspapers, Emily told me in an email last night. She sent a link to the 7:00 Vimeo short embedded below. A second video short will be finished next week and shown at Duke on Friday, May 20, she said.
You can follow Emily's case on Twitter @BringPedroHome. The Miami Herald published a story three weeks ago that provides a good overview. But read the Emily's Bring Pedro Home website — it's all there.
And if, when you're finished, you don't agree that the Congress should pass the DREAM Act now — today — so that this kind of thing can't happen to innocent people, well, it's a free country, I suppose — but freedom is about more than the right to be bigoted, isn't it?