Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez fell to his knees and received prayer Tuesday from Cleveland Catholic Diocese Bishop Nelson Perez in a federal immigration office.
The newly installed bishop went with an Elyria family to make a compassionate appeal for the husband and father to stay in the United States.
Hernandez-Ramirez is set to be deported Thursday, leaving behind his wife, American-born son and three stepchildren, including his 28-year-old severely disabled stepson, Juan Pino. The 46-year-old man is his stepson’s main caregiver, a role he happily assumed when he fell in love and married Seleste Wisniewski, an Elyria resident.
Hernandez-Ramirez has already purchased his airplane ticket with a 1:10 p.m. departure to Mexico.
As of Tuesday night, immigration attorney David Leopold said the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not responded to a request for a stay of deportation. Leopold said he is hoping ICE will grant the stay today, calling it “the right thing to do.’
“This is a man that has been playing by the rules, trying to do it the right way and painstakingly doing everything that ICE has told him,” he said. “Now, ICE up and decides to deport him, and for what reason, I ask.”
The bishop offered his support and accompanied the family to a meeting at ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations.
“The sad truth is people like Pedro are easy targets because they comply with the rules and show up for the hearings,” said Lynn Tramonte with America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group based out of Washington. “Nothing has changed with this man since the last time a stay was granted. If anything, he has become more American. He works and pays taxes and is a loving father to his children including one that is never going to walk again and needs the care of his father.”
Wisniewski said the bishop did not speak to ICE officials, but they did take a letter from him.
In photos of the meeting that Wisniewski provided, the bishop is seen cradling Hernandez-Ramirez’s head as the man kneels before him. In another, Wisniewiski and Hernandez-Ramirez’s young son, Luis Angel, 9, stands with his father and the bishop.
“I love my amazing, awesome family,” Wisniewski said. “I’m the richest woman in the world. I have what money can never buy — real true love.”
In his letter, the bishop said the family needs compassion to step in over politics. Hernandez-Ramirez is the daily caregiver of the wheelchair-bound Pino and his wife fears she will have to place her son in a state facility to receive around-the-clock care without her husband.
She has medical issues of her own and severe back pain that prevents her from lifting and moving the adult man.
“No ICE official can put a cap on the type of care my son deserves,” Wisniewski said in a text message sent late Tuesday. “Has anyone stopped to think how they would like to be trapped in his body? His body don’t work for him, but his mind does. I have fought for him for 28 years. He deserves more than he gets, he deserves to be respected.”
In published media reports, ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said Hernandez-Ramirez was deported three times, and it is time for him to be deported again.
Leopold said Hernandez-Ramirez has a valid work permit that does not expire until February and an approved immigrant visa petition.
In August, ICE officials came to the family’s West River Road South residence looking for Hernandez-Ramirez. Leopold said the man was at work at the time.
“There is this talk about getting rid of the ‘bad hombres,’ but they have Pedro, who takes care of a disabled man and loves his family,” he said. “To remove this man from his home is an absolute abomination.”
When asked if he thought the bishop’s plea would carry any weight, Leopold said he hoped it would.
“I would think so, because everyone involved in this case is a human being, including the ICE officials that have the power to make the right decision,” Leopold said. “I would hope that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and the fear of God to do the right thing.”
Hernandez-Ramirez has been in the United States for more than 15 years after arriving in 2001. He has already been deported only to return illegally to the United States. Leopold said Hernandez-Ramirez would have to wait up to 20 years to return if deported Thursday.
“He might be able to ask for a waiver in a decade,” Leopold said. “For all intents and purposes, they are destroying this family. How this serves anyone’s national agenda is beyond me. It puts Juan Pino at risk of going into a taxpayer-funded facility. This is not just about compassion; from an economic standpoint, this doesn’t make sense when this man can remain in his home with his family. I asked them today, if this case doesn’t merit reprieve, what does?”
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