After the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia denied his appeal on May 3, Crecensio Mendez Ramirez was deported to his native Mexico. Mendez, who had lived with his partner and four children in the Kansas City area for more than a decade, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February during his yearly check-in.
"I couldn't imagine that he would be deported," said Mendez's partner, Yasmin, who asked that her last name not be used because she, like Mendez, is undocumented.
Mendez had been allowed to stay in the U.S. under ICE supervision. But according to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer, that status changed in 2010 and ICE ordered him by mail to leave the country.
Mendez claimed he never got that notice. It was on that basis his lawyer Jonathan Willmoth sought to reopen the case in February, which, he said, created a backup "stay of removal" protecting Mendez from deportation.
Or so he thought.
ICE deported Mendez less than 24 hours after the Board of Immigration Appeals denied his appeal. Willmoth said that with more notice, he could have filed an emergency petition in federal court.
“Did I think there was something untoward about it? I don't know,” Willmoth said. “It seemed awfully fast."
Neudauer, however, said there was nothing fast about it.
“He’s known for eight years the U.S. government intended to deport him, and he had several years between then and his recent removal to avail himself of the potential avenues of relief,” Neudauer told KCUR in a written statement.
After the appeal was denied, Neudauer said ICE considered Mendez "amenable to deportation, in accordance with the lower court's order."
According to Willmoth, Mendez’s stay of removal is technically still pending, but will almost certainly be denied now that Mendez is no longer in the country. Family members said Mendez is in Montenegro, Mexico, hiding from men in his home town of Guerrero who have threatened his life.
"It's one of the most dangerous places in Mexico right now. For his family to know he's not only separated but in harm's way is devastating," said Jessica Piedra, an immigration lawyer and advocate with Cosecha Kansas City.
Mendez leaves behind his four children, the youngest 6 years old. They're with their mother, Yasmin, who said she’s been unable to afford her diabetes medication since Mendez, the family's sole provider, was detained. She said the children understand their dad is gone, but “are having a hard time adapting” to the shock of his departure.
Willmoth called the immigration detention and deportation process an imperfect system under the best of circumstances.
"If you have a right to representation, but the agency housing you can move you all over the country on a whim without any notice to anybody and without any guarantee that you're going to be able to contact your attorney? The immigration system is just not conducive to the attorney-client relationship at all when people are detained," Willmoth said.
He described Mendez's abrupt deportation as yet one more example of that.