An Illinois congressman will continue to advocate for a Ridgeland man facing deportation today, once again urging federal officials to drop the case.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat known for his staunch support of immigration reform, will attend the first hearing in the deportation case against Gabino Sanchez of Ridgeland at 1 p.m. today in Charlotte, along with Sanchez's attorney, who will be arguing the case.
Sanchez is a 27-year-old landscaping and construction worker who was brought to the U.S. as a teenager and now has two children who are citizens. His criminal record is limited to driving without a license and another misdemeanor conviction for a suspended vehicle registration.
He should not be a priority for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Gutierrez argues.
"Every one of the violations derives from his being undocumented and therefore unable to obtain a license," Gutierrez said. "When ICE says it is going to target serious criminals and then ends up deporting a father and husband and, frankly, a poster child for ethnic profiling overreach, there is something wrong going on, and I need to see for myself."
Gutierrez, who has attended previous hearings on Sanchez's behalf, cited an ICE policy released in June that states the agency should use its limited resources toward deporting criminals.
Sanchez was arrested by the Ridgeland Police Department after a traffic violation on Nov. 2 and was later placed on an ICE "hold," meaning ICE had flagged him because he is undocumented.
Gutierrez was told about Sanchez's case by the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition when the congressman visited South Carolina after the S.C. legislature had passed an Arizona-style immigration-enforcement law.
Gutierrez said his interest in the Sanchez case is part of a national effort to monitor how immigration officials are using their resources and the extent to which its court cases are reserved for "serious" criminals.
He has set up a Family Unity Advisory Group in his home district of Chicago that raises awareness about deportation cases against immigrants who have not committed other crimes, and advises others on how to protect their rights.
Eric Esquivel, chairman of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition and publisher of Hilton Head-based La Isla magazine, said his group is doing similar outreach.
"We haven't been seeing (the new ICE policy) respected by ICE officials," Esquivel said. "We're working with a handful of other cases in similar situations and offering our support to them if they fall under this classification."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.