DREAM Team advocated to halt deportation of El Salvador native Perez| November 25, 2013
Princeton’s DREAM Team, a student immigration advocacy group, said it helped prevent the deportation of German Perez, a native of El Salvador, by successfully lobbying N.J. Senator Robert Menendez, whose office got involved with the case.
Perez, a Trenton-area construction worker, was going to be deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He has been a granted a six-month period in which he can petition for asylum.
As ICE began procedures to deport Perez earlier this month, DREAM Team members advocated to prevent his deportation on grounds that he is needed to care for his children in the United States and that he would be in danger of violence if he returned to his home country.
Menendez’s office got involved in the case after the DREAM Team reached out, according to Juan Pachon, Menendez’s Deputy Communications Director.
“Perez’s case was obviously a horrible one, [where] something needed to happen,” Pachon said.
Pachon explained that their office got involved once the DREAM Team had drawn their attention to the case.
“Our office stepped in and contacted ICE to make sure that they would send [Perez] back to New Jersey, and not only that, but that he would still be able to apply for asylum when he was let go,” Pachon said.
Perez was being held in Louisiana.
Perez first spoke with DREAM Team members on Nov. 9 during one of the DREAM Team’s regular visits to a local detention center. They had learned that Perez was at the detention center from Wind of the Spirit, another immigrant advocacy organization, according to DREAM Team member Logan Coleman ’15.
"It struck me just how sad he was and concerned about his family. Not even really as concerned as he should've been about returning to El Salvador but concerned about what would happen to his five children that are here, and his wife who has the newborn without having any sort of income,” Coleman said.
DREAM Team members discovered that Perez’s case was unique among the deportation cases they usually see, according to Coleman.
Perez falls into what ICE considers its lowest priority category of potential deportees. According to ICE documentation, ICE first prioritizes immigrants who threaten national security or public safety, then immigrants who have recently entered the country illegally and finally aliens who are subject to a final order to depart but do not leave, of which Perez is one.
“[We’ve been] giving it more attention than we’ve given some of the other cases just because it seemed like there were so many things pointing his direction that we’d be able to get him out for,” Coleman explained. She mentioned Perez’s “incredible fear of going back” and his “having five kids, one of which [is] a newborn.”
Of these five children, three are U.S. citizens, according to an email the DREAM Team sent to the student body. “German’s family [will] suffer immensely should he be deported,” the DREAM Team email said.
The DREAM Team email added that Perez’s “own life will be at risk in El Salvador,” explaining that his sister was recently shot and his nephew was killed.El Salvador was ranked by the Geneva Declaration as thenation with the most violent deaths per capita in 2009.
Coleman explained that Perez’s deportation moved along extremely quickly despite the features of his case. News that Perez was being moved to Louisiana in preparation for his deportation spurred the DREAM Team into action on Nov. 17, she added.
“We weren’t expecting his movement to Louisiana or his deportation to happen that quickly. ICE tends to be really slow and bureaucratic about these things,” Coleman said.
The DREAM Team coordinated efforts on Perez’s behalf quickly. This included circulating a petition, organizing phonebanks to call ICE’s New Jersey and Washington offices and holding a rally in Frist Campus Center on the evening of Nov. 18. It worked with similar organizations from other college campuses.
“It was something that was really sudden. In a matter of a few hours, we decided that we wanted to do something,” DREAM Team member Christina Chica ’15 said. “I was really proud of all of the people who pulled together last minute.”
Perez was given release by ICE on Nov. 21, according to an email sent out by the DREAM Team. This was just one day before Perez was scheduled to be deported on Nov. 22.
Perez was scheduled to fly back to New Jersey from Louisiana on Monday, according to Coleman. He will soon be reunited with his family.“We do a lot of things that we like to think are directly impacting people, but this was one of the first times that we could see most immediately the link that our actions had on somebody else’s life,” Chica said.
While the DREAM Team has previously participated in petitions circulated online, Perez’s case was the first it took on from start to finish, Coleman noted. He added that the DREAM Team will continue to work on these types of cases.