By Ron Leir
A Kearny man accused of entering the U.S. illegally now faces deportation but his supporters have circulated an online petition calling on the federal government to stop the proceedings.
The alleged undocumented resident has been identified by his Jersey City immigration attorney Rudy Rodas as Leandro “Leo” Jose Frageri Carlos.
According to Rodas, Frageri- Carlos, 30, came here from Brazil, and, until his recent apprehension by federal immigration agents, was living in Kearny with his fiancee, daughter and stepdaughter.
Harold A. Ort, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Newark, said Frageri- Carlos “entered the U.S. illegally in 2004 and was subsequently ordered removed in March 2005 by an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review.”
Ort added: “ICE has adopted common sense policies nationwide that ensure our immigration laws are enforced in a way that best enhances public safety, border security and the integrity of the immigration system.
“As part of this approach, ICE has adopted clear priorities that call for the agency’s enforcement resources to be focused on the identification and removal of those that have broken criminal laws, recently crossed our border, repeatedly violated immigration law or are fugitives from immigration court.
“As an immigration fugitive, Frageri-Carlos is a priority for removal by ICE. He was arrested by ICE officers April 16, 2013, outside his home in Kearney [sic], N.J. He is currently detained at Delaney Hall [a federal detention center on Doremus Ave. in Newark] pending removal from the United States.”
In a phone interview, Rodas said his client “doesn’t have any criminal history. The removal order wasn’t because he committed a crime.”
Asked if the ICE allegation about illegal entry to the U.S. was accurate, Rodas said: [Frageri-Carlo] did enter the country without permission, looking for a better life. He has been working recently as a laborer, in construction, in Essex and Hudson counties. In the past he worked as a waiter and bartender. That’s how he supports his daughter and fiancée.”
According to his attorney, Frageri-Carlo is from Cuiaba, capital of the Brazilian state Mato Grosso in the western part of the country. After graduating from secondary school, the equivalent to high school in the U.S., he sold appliances.
Rodas said Frageri-Carlo’s mother left Brazil when he was 17 and five years later, when both his mother and sister had settled in the U.S., he decided to join them. Since then, he’s lived in Newark’s Ironbound section, Elizabeth and Kearny.
Rodas said his client “didn’t have anyone that could help him with his legal status.”
Frageri-Carlo’s fiancée, Flaviane de Souza, said she came to the U.S. in 1996 with her parents from San Paolo, Brazil. Her mother has since become a U.S. citizen and de Souza has applied for a visa.
De Souza’s family settled in Massachusetts and Flaviane’s “introduction” to Leandro came on a social website and an online relationship developed. Their first face-to-face meeting, she said, came in April 2009 at a rodeo which is held annually in Brockton, Mass.
“After I got pregnant [with Giovana, now age 2],” Flaviane said, “I decided to join Leo in New Jersey.” She also has another daughter, Leticia, now age 10, whose biological father lives in New Hampshire.
If Frageri-Carlo is forced to leave the U.S., de Souza and her fiancé face some hard choices. If de Souza opted to follow Frageri-Carlo back to Brazil, she said it‘s unlikely that Leticia’s dad would object to her taking his daughter with her.
“My 10-year-old has been crying,” de Souza said. “She understands [what could happen]. She barely sees her [biological} dad. Now she may lose her new dad.”
Following her fiancé back to their native country is a no-win proposition, she said. “Look at the crime rate in Brazil – it’s horrible. The health system, too. It’s going to be a hard choice for us to make. I just don’t want to think about it. A lot of people are going to get hurt. I’m just trying to think positive for now.”
Joanne Gottesman, clinical professor at Rutgers University Law School/Camden and director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, said that the Frageri-Carlo situation isn’t an isolated occurrence these days. ICE enforcement of federal immigration laws in New Jersey and elsewhere “is continuing and expanding under the Obama administration, even now, on the verge of immigration reform.”
And although the expectation is that ICE would prioritize going after criminal suspects in the enforcement of immigration laws, Gottesman said the patterns of cases show that enforcement laws “are not being uniformly or systematically applied.”
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, who has seen the online petition, said he doesn’t know the individuals involved but he believes that the number of ICE cases have “more than doubled under Obama.”
Santos recalled a case four years ago when Sen. Robert Menendez interceded on behalf of an undocumented Uruguayan family in Kearny facing deportation, despite the fact that their child, a student at Franklin School, was on dialysis and “near death.” Fortunately, Santos said, a year’s deferment was granted and the child “got surgery and survived.”
That case, he said, illustrated that sometimes a “compelling reason” for staying in the U.S. can save an individual or family from deportation. “Just because you’ve been here and established roots doesn’t do it,” he said. A life-threatening illness that can’t be treated in one’s native country or the threat of being politically or religiously persecuted in your country of origin, for example, can save the day, he added.
Santos said Congress needs to bear in mind that, “we have a very large population throughout the country of undocumented individuals who are performing jobs that are very hard to staff, usually in the service trades, such as the restaurant and landscaping industries, typically working off the books. They should be paying taxes and their employers should be paying taxes, not having them work off the books. There should be a way to grant those individuals work status and, later, we can debate whether that should lead to a path to citizenship – and I think it should. If we had mass deportations in the agriculture industry, many farms would shut down.”
Santos, himself an immigrant whose family had to wait two years before it could get into the U.S. from South America in 1970, said there’s something else to bear in mind: America’s birth rate has slipped to “just about 2%. If we fall below that, admitting more immigrants could be the way to sustain the country’s growth rate” – ultimately, vital to the U.S. economy.
“This country was built by immigrants,” Santos said. “We have to provide a path [to citizenship]. We can’t make it so restrictive that we close the door.”
Meanwhile, Rodas is doing what he can to keep his client in the U.S. “I filed a motion to reopen his case with the Immigration Court in Boston,” the attorney said. “Legally, ICE can only hold someone for 180 days and execute an order for removal [from the country] within that time. But, also by law, a stay [of removal] automatically goes into effect when the Court receives the motion.” The paperwork was delivered last week, he said.