The husband of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan was allowed to return to the United States Monday after immigration officials deported him last week and put their daughter at risk of losing another parent, NBC affiliate KNPX reported.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 30-year-old Jose Gonzalez Carranza on April 8 in Phoenix, Arizona, as he was headed to work and then deported him to Mexico three days later, according to his attorney, Ezequiel Hernandez.
Gonzalez Carranza's late wife, Army Pfc. Barbara Vieyra, was killed on Sept. 18, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan. She was 22. Gonzalez Carranza shares custody of the couple's 12-year-old daughter with Vieyra's parents.
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Hernandez said in a news release that his client — who had entered the U.S. illegally in 2004 at the age of 16 — had been granted a "parole in place" (PIP) in 2017 after his wife was killed. PIP authorizes certain undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel — active and veterans — to stay and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In 2018, an immigration judge had stopped deportation proceedings against Gonzalez Carranza because of his PIP status.
Gonzalez Carranza told KNPX that he told the arresting ICE agents of his rights based on the PIP and claimed they replied, "I don't care."
According to Hernandez, ICE refiled a deportation case against Gonzalez Carranza last year and after failing to appear in court for a hearing in December, a judge issued a deportation order.
However, Gonzalez Carranza said he never received a notice of a court appearance from USCIS and Hernandez also contends in his news release that his office was not sent any paperwork.
"I never received any kind of paper," Gonzalez Carranza told KNPX. "The first time this happened, the judge gave me an opportunity to be a United States legal and I do my best. I never missed anything, any kind of information, any kind of paper, any time I needed to be in front of an immigration judge, I was always there. I’ll always be on time to renew my permits, everything. But I never received anything to tell me I have a new hearing."
Hernandez said a Motion to Reopen (MTR) Gonzalez Carranza's case was filed the same day he was detained, "triggering an automatic stay" on his deportation proceedings. That's because the judge's deportation order was issued "in absentia," meaning the court made a decision on the case without the defendant’s presence during the proceedings. While filing a motion to reopen doesn’t automatically stay deportation, in general, it does pause an exisiting removal order that was issued in absentia.
The attorney said ICE's field office in Phoenix was provided with a copy of the pending MTR, but the agency deported him anyways.
ICE acknowledged Tuesday that Gonzalez Carranza was deported while a hold on his removal from the U.S. was in place, but offered no explanation why.
"On April 11, ICE removed Gonzalez-Carranza from the United States pending the motion to reopen while a stay was in place. On April 15, Gonzalez-Carranza was allowed to re-enter the United States pending adjudication of his immigration proceedings. An immigration judge with EOIR will determine if proceedings should be reopened, and whether Gonzalez-Carranza has legal basis to remain in the United States," ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said in a statement to NBC News.
Gonzalez Carranza's case sparked widespread outrage and attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. A spokeswoman for Sinema told the Arizona Republic that her office had reached out to help.
On Monday, Gonzalez Carranza was told to go to the Nogales/Mariposa Port of Entry where he would be allowed to cross the border into the U.S.
Citing several errors made by ICE, Hernandez believes that Gonzalez Carranza has a strong case for the court to rule on his client's motion to reopen the case. KNPX reported that if the court agrees, they will then have to again fight to terminate the deportation proceedings.
"As it stands, [being a widower of an American soldier] is not enough to have legal permanent status in the United States," Hernandez told KNPX.
Sinema spokeswoman Hannah Hurley told the Republic that the senator's office "is in communication with Mr. Carranza’s attorney and we will assist the Carranza family in this process."