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Immigrant rights group raises public support for KC area dad set to be deported

Kansas City Star - 2/3/2021

Feb. 3—A petition with thousands of signatures launched by an immigrant advocacy organization is hoping to stop the deportation of a Kansas City area father of six.

The petition, "Freedom for Jose!" was launched last week on by the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance, a youth-led nonprofit that advocates for immigrant rights and higher education for undocumented young people. It now has more than 4,500 signatures. A spokeswoman said Tuesday that the petition was the fastest-growing petition related to immigration on the site.

Ana Jimenez, with KSMODA, said the petition to free Jose Abundio Gomez is the organization's last hope to bring enough public attention to stop his deportation.

Legally, there is none.

Seven years ago, Gomez was working construction when his boss sent him, after hours, to clean up a work site. While there, a neighbor called the police and reported him as suspicious, Jimenez said.

He was arrested for burglary. Those charges were later dismissed, court records show. But that is where the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement case began.

Jimenez said it was for theft of less than $15 and that the charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence. Everything in his truck was trash, she added.

At the time, he had been in the U.S. for seven years — short of the 10 years needed to qualify for cancellation of removal. With his life and family in the U.S., he chose to stay to support them.

The agency arrested Gomez on Jan. 22, said ICE spokesperson Shawn Neudauer. In a statement Neudauer said Gomez had no prior convictions in the U.S. but was "voluntarily returned to Mexico eight times between 2003 and 2006."

He "was released on bond after appealing a final order of removal, issued a by a federal immigration judge, March 30, 2018," Neudauer said. "The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed his appeal May 1, 2020, and he was given until Oct. 21 to surrender to ICE so the court order could be carried out.

After failing to do so he became an immigration fugitive."

A few weeks ago, Gomez was driving to work when police pulled him over for speeding and turned him over to ICE, Jiminez said. As of last week, he was being held in Morgan County on an immigration violation.

"We've asked around and there really is no legal avenue," Jimenez said. "Our job is to do whatever we can in whatever possible way to bring a spotlight to what's continuing to happen during COVID and during a new administration that promised that we wouldn't have deportations in 100 days. And that's definitely not the case."

President Joe Biden's administration's 100-day pause on deportation was blocked by a federal judge in Texas last week.

Gomez has now been in the country for 14 years. All of his children are U.S. citizens.

"It just is very disheartening," Jimenez said. "Because again, we're going through a global pandemic. There is children still separated from their family ... this won't stop happening until someone does something about it in a significant way."

Gomez's youngest child is two years old. His oldest is 14. Living without a parent is traumatizing, Jimenez said.

She said KSMODA has been in contact with local representatives about the case and that they've done everything possible to hold the deportation. Their concern, Jimenez said, is that he could be deported any day now.

A GoFundMe has also been started to help support his family.

"We're just hoping that somebody in Morgan County has a good heart," Jimenez said.

Star reporter Anna Spoerre contributed reporting.


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