Ties to US spur il­le­gal reen­try

Fam­i­lies, jobs keep un­doc­u­mented of­fend­ers re­turn­ing

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Ri­ley Yates and Peter Hall

Last in a two-part se­ries

A Do­mini­can man whose chil­dren have a bet­ter life than he could have hoped for.

A fed­eral judge in Eas­ton who noted the at­trac­tion of the United States, even for im­mi­grants thrown into prison for con­tin­u­ing to sneak into it.

A Bucks County busi­ness owner who is torn be­tween his feel­ings for an ex­em­plary worker and his be­lief that im­mi­gra­tion laws must be en­forced.

Those are a few of the sto­ries be­hind the prose­cu­tions for im­mi­gra­tion of­fenses, which have leaped na­tion­ally and in Penn­syl­va­nia un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

It is a felony for some­one who has been de­ported to re­turn to the United States with­out per­mis­sion. That is be­ing ag­gres­sively ap­plied by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, a wider net that has cap­tured many un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who have jobs, deep roots in the U.S. and mi­nor, old or in some cases nonex­is­tent crim­i­nal records, a Morn­ing Call re­view of more than 200 cases found.

The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Philadel­phia casts il­le­gal reen­try charges as a ques­tion of law and or­der, say­ing those who breach the coun­try’s bor­ders must be de­terred from try­ing to re­turn.

Crit­ics charge it is both cruel and a waste of tax­payer re­sources to use the crim­i­nal courts to im­prison im­mi­grants who will be de­ported re­gard­less.

Here are ac­counts of three men re­cently sen­tenced in the East­ern District of Penn­syl­va­nia, which in­cludes the Le­high

Val­ley and Philadel­phia and its sub­urbs.

Roberto Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas was “hon­est, de­pend­able and in­cred­i­bly hard-work­ing,” an al­laround as­set to E&J Metal Fab­ri­ca­tors in Northamp­ton Town­ship, Bucks County.

Com­pany Pres­i­dent Brent Reeb wrote those glow­ing words last year for a court fil­ing in sup­port of Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas, who was ar­rested by im­mi­gra­tion agents near his home in Perkasie.

“He was just a straight-up decent man and there’s not a lot of them out there,” Reeb told The Morn­ing Call. “He was an in­tel­li­gent guy, a loyal guy and a great guy.”

But Reeb, 61, said he also un­der­stands why Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas was pros­e­cuted for il­le­gally reen­ter­ing the coun­try from Mex­ico.

“That’s the sys­tem do­ing what it is sup­posed to do,” he said. “It is sup­posed to pick up crim­i­nals. I’m not try­ing to paint him as a crim­i­nal, but that’s what he was.”

Ac­cord­ing to court records, Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas, 43, had three prior de­por­ta­tions, in 2004, 2010 and 2012. He was con­victed twice of drunken driv­ing in Ge­or­gia in 1999 and had an un­re­solved 2008 DUI in Doylestown that he had not an­swered for.

“Ter­ri­fied that he would be ar­rested by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties when he ar­rived for his court hear­ing in that case, he did not ap­pear, and the case re­mained in abeyance for the next decade,” El­iz­a­beth To­plin, as­sis­tant chief fed­eral de­fender, wrote in a sen­tenc­ing memo. “Mr. Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas stopped drink­ing af­ter his last ar­rest, and has not had even a sip of al­co­hol for over five years.”

To­plin said her client saw the United States as a “land of op­por­tu­nity” and lived most of his adult life here. Tis­carenoBar­ra­jas, who is gay, met his hus­band more than 15 years ago in Ge­or­gia and they mar­ried in 2016 — part of the rea­son he wanted to remain in the U.S., be­cause Mex­ico is less tol­er­ant of same-sex re­la­tion­ships, To­plin said.

Tis­careno-Bar­ra­jas had spent 4½ months in cus­tody when a fed­eral judge sen­tenced him to time served in Oc­to­ber, clear­ing the path for his de­por­ta­tion. He is now in Mex­ico while his hus­band re­mains in the United States, Phil Swart­ley, his for­mer land­lord, said in July.

“My soft side says give him an­other chance and my prac­ti­cal side says de­port him,” Reeb said. “He snuck in too many times. He broke the law too many times.”

Luis R. Che­va­lier-Pena has three chil­dren in the United States, a son and two daugh­ters who are now in their 20s. One is a den­tal as­sis­tant. An­other works as a se­cu­rity guard. The third is in col­lege.

Their suc­cesses “leapfrogge­d” any­thing Che­va­lier-Pena could have hoped for in his na­tive Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, his as­sis­tant fed­eral de­fender, Mythri Ja­yara­man, told a fed­eral judge in Eas­ton in June.

“He made a bet­ter fu­ture for his chil­dren pos­si­ble,” Ja­yara­man said.

The 48-year-old Read­ing man was ar­rested by im­mi­gra­tion agents last year af­ter be­ing twice cited for traf­fic vi­o­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to court records. Che­va­lier-Pena also has a 2004 con­vic­tion in New Jersey for con­spir­acy to dis­trib­ute heroin, for which he served more than two years in fed­eral prison be­fore be­ing de­ported.

In sen­tenc­ing Che­va­lier-Pena for il­le­gal reen­try, U.S. District Judge Ed­ward Smith said he needed to send a mes­sage, even as he praised Che­va­lier-Pena’s work ethic and noted the age of his prior con­vic­tion.

“All the ev­i­dence that’s been sub­mit­ted sug­gests you’ve been a hard-work­ing in­di­vid­ual your en­tire life,” Smith said. “Ev­ery­one who was in­ter­viewed by the pro­ba­tion of­fice had noth­ing but good things to say about you.”

Still, Smith or­dered Che­va­lierPena to spend 18 months in prison be­fore he is sent back to the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic.

“Others have to know that if they come into this coun­try il­le­gally and they are caught, they are go­ing to be pros­e­cuted. They are go­ing to be con­victed. They are go­ing to be pun­ished,” Smith said.

In July, Smith or­dered 57-yearold Miguel Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa of Read­ing to spend six months in prison, a time-served sen­tence that paved the way for his de­por­ta­tion to Mex­ico.

Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa came to the United States in 1977 as a teenager and was granted law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dency sta­tus a decade later, ac­cord­ing to court records. He was first de­ported af­ter be­ing caught in 1990 smug­gling mar­i­juana across the Texas bor­der, a crime for which he re­ceived a sus­pended prison sen­tence. It was one of three prior re­movals from the U.S.

“That means that four sep­a­rate times — at least — he en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally,” said As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney John Gallagher, who re­cently was nom­i­nated by Trump to be a U.S. District Court judge.

Smith high­lighted that Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa, who was ar­rested at his home by im­mi­gra­tion agents, has been crime-free for nearly three decades. He also noted Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa’s ties to the United States: He owns prop­erty here and most of his fam­ily is in Amer­ica, in­clud­ing his two chil­dren and eight grand­chil­dren.

Smith said he was con­cerned that any sen­tence he handed down would fail to dis­suade Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa from com­ing back.

“There’s such an al­lure here for you,” Smith said.

To dis­cour­age Car­rillo-Za­mar­ripa, Smith adopted a tac­tic he also used with Che­va­lier-Pena.

Onto both men’s sen­tences, Smith tacked three years of fed­eral pro­ba­tion. Out­side the coun­try, the ex­tra re­quire­ment is mean­ing­less. But if they were caught re­turn­ing, they’d face ad­di­tional time in prison.

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