Jose Luis Vazquez Campos has lost his battle to stay in the United States -- for now, at least. Despite a rally and petition stop Campos's deportation, the father of two young boys was unable to process the paperwork to request that his case be closed. Last week, Campos said goodbye to his wife and sons and boarded a bus bound for Mexico.
Campos was undocumented and got caught in deportation proceedings after he was stopped by the police four times in a month in 2009 for violations such as going five miles per hour over the speed limit and having a headlight out. Campos didn't have a driver's license, and local law enforcement likely reported the traffic tickets to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which began deportation proceedings against him. Campos hired a lawyer, who agreed to a voluntary departure, which means Campos vowed to return to Mexico for now but is eligible to apply to re-enter the country legally.
Campos's voluntary departure agreement proved tricky when it came to stopping his deportation. In June, with about a month to go before Campos was scheduled to return to Mexico, he and his wife sought help from the American Friends Service Committee, which is active on immigrant issues. "They wanted to feel that they'd done everything they could before he left," says Jennifer Piper of the AFSC. "Neither of them had ever been in the press before -- they're humble, pretty shy people -- but they felt like this is their home and they wanted to do everything they could to see if they could stay together."
The AFSC helped organize a rally to stop Campos's deportation, and Piper accompanied Campos to the ICE office in Centennial to file for a stay of deportation, which costs $155. An employee there gave the two some valuable advice. "He came out with it and said, 'I can take this, but if I take this, I'm just going to take your money and stamp it denied,'" Piper says. "He explained to us that it needed to go to the Office of the Chief Counsel."
The ICE Office of the Chief Counsel prosecutes deportation cases. Piper says they learned that since a voluntary departure agreement is a pact between the prosecution and the immigrant -- much like a plea deal -- it's under the purview of that office. Instead of asking for a stay of deportation, Campos would have to ask prosecutors to close his case, meaning he'd go back to being undocumented but wouldn't have to leave the country.
So Campos and his wife hurried to put together a petition asking prosecutors to do just that. When they went to deliver it, however, Piper says they were told that Campos's old lawyer -- the one who'd agreed to the voluntary departure -- was still the "lawyer of record" on the case and was the only one who could file such a petition.
"This is where Jose's luck ran out all the way," Piper says. Campos called his lawyer's office only to find out that the man was in Israel and there was no quick way to reach him.
"It was really frustrating," Piper says. "Some of it is, we're still learning how to fight certain types of cases." Immigrant advocates have figured out one thing, however: Cases with public support, like that of Smoky Hill High School graduate Gerardo Noriega, tend to fare better than people who fight their deportations out of the public eye. "Those who apply for discretion and don't go public, it seems those cases get turned down more frequently than those that go more public," Piper says. "In this case, it was different, because we were never able to ask for it. It's not that they said 'no.' We never got to ask.."
More from our Immigration archive: "Initiative 52: Signature collection slow for undocumented-immigrants license proposal."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar!
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.