YS man still in ICE custody
- Published: September 16, 2019
Picked up and detained Aug. 28 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents, villager Miguel Espinosa remains in custody more than two weeks later, awaiting a bond hearing date that had yet to be scheduled at press time.
The Yellow Springs business owner and father of three school-age children is currently being held in Butler County Jail, which has a contract to house ICE and other federal detainees.
The bond hearing is the first step in a legal process that will likely take two to three years, Espinosa’s lawyer, Karen Bradley, said in a telephone interview last week.
“The first order of business is we have to get him out of jail,” Bradley said.
Bradley, who is based in Dayton, filed a motion last week with the regional immigration court to set a bond hearing, officially called a “custody redetermination hearing,” as soon as possible.
She said she hopes to get a response from the court, which is in Cleveland, before the week’s end.
Once a date is assigned, the hearing will be conducted by tele-video — with her by Espinosa’s side in the Butler County Jail and the yet-to-be-assigned judge sitting in Cleveland.
Proceedings are open to the public, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, but Bradley noted that access is limited to the judge’s court.
“No one is allowed in the jail [for hearings] other than attorneys, but anyone can go to the Cleveland immigration court to listen to the hearing,” she wrote in an email this week.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine if Espinosa will stay in custody or be released on bond until his deportation case is heard. While Bradley said she anticipated a wait of two to three years, she noted that cases are now being scheduled for 2023.
What led to detention
A native of Mexico who reportedly was brought to the U.S. as a youth, Espinosa came to ICE attention after being stopped by Yellow Springs Police on a traffic violation shortly before midnight Monday, Aug. 26, and subsequently booked into the Greene County Jail, which police said was based on his having several past traffic-related violations, including an OVI last year.
Greene County Jail Administrator Major Kirk Keller believes that ICE was alerted to Espinosa’s arrest when his fingerprints were entered into a national law enforcement database, as occurs during the booking process.
Responding to a request to ICE last week for information regarding Espinosa’s case, agency spokesman Khaalid Wall referred in an email to two OVIs in Espinosa’s record. Greene County records show just the one from last year, but Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson said that ICE may have information from other jurisdictions.
The traffic stop, arrest and consequential ICE detention sparked community concern, and even outrage, over the local police action — covered in last week’s YS News — as well as distress that a valued community member faces possible deportation.
Calling Espinosa’s detention and possible deportation “devastating,” villager Sommer McGuire set up a GoFundMe page for the family, writing: “At the heart of this unfortunate situation is a loving family and a community that loves them right back.”
Espinosa, 41, came to Yellow Springs with his family over three years ago when his wife, Dawn Boyer, took a position with Yellow Springs Schools. Married in New York City in 2004, they had moved to Tampa, Fla., soon after, remaining there until relocating to Yellow Springs. Boyer has said they sought legal status for Espinosa without success in both New York and Tampa, and she thought he would be safe from detention in her hometown.
With a long history in the food industry, including opening and running a restaurant in Tampa, Espinosa started a new venture here as well. Miguel’s Tacos, a downtown food truck, became a popular local eatery with an outside dining area adjacent to Kings Yard.
Espinosa, whose menu was noted by regional food writers for its use of fresh, local produce, hired local help, paid taxes and gave money to the schools.
According to school district records, the school board accepted a donation of $2,750 from Miguel’s Tacos in November 2017.
The community, in turn, is rallying around the family.
In addition to the GoFundMe page, local people have organized a meal train for the family, including an account at Current Cuisine deli, with the grassroots civil rights group H.U.M.A.N. serving as family liaison.
The group is posting updates from Boyer on its Facebook page, The Human Project.
Villagers also wrote more than 120 letters of support for attorney Bradley to present to the immigration judge along with other supporting documents.
The case moving forward
Bradley said the community’s outpouring has left her feeling optimistic about Espinosa’s case.
“This is the only case I’ve seen with this many letters of support,” she said. “It’s a wonderful showing.”
In his favor, as well: “He’s a working man. He has his business, he has his family,” she said.
If bond is granted and he is allowed to go home, “he is still in deportation proceedings,” she said.
The next step after the “custody redetermination” hearing, whether or not he’s bonded out, will be to determine a deportation ruling.
Bradley said that Espinosa will be asking for a change in his immigration status so that he can remain in the U.S. as a permanent resident. Officially, he will be seeking what’s called “a cancelation of removal for a nonpermanent resident.”
She said there are four criteria for making the request, and she believes he meets them all.
The first is that the individual must have been living in the U.S. for 10 years or more and be able to show proof of residence.
Second, the petitioner must have “qualifying”(legal) family members. “He has a wife and three children who were born here,” Bradley noted.
Third, the person must be of good moral character, Bradley said. “Having traffic violations, even OVI, are not disqualifying,” she added.
And last is whether there “will be an exceptional, an extremely difficult, hardship to his qualifying family members if he is not allowed to be in the United States,” Bradley said.
The last is the hardest to prove, she said, adding that “missing someone” isn’t enough. “There needs to be a financial, psychological or medical reason.”
Even then, more and more cases are being denied, she said.
Still, she retains hope for Espinosa’s case. She also noted that immigration laws may have changed by the time his case goes before a judge. And even if his request to stay is denied, he has the right to take his case to the board of immigration appeals.
He can’t be deported until the entire process is complete, she said.
If bond is denied, Espinosa is expected to be transferred from the Butler County Jail to a longer term facility, such as the privately owned detention center in Youngstown.
Butler County Jail is considered a short-term holding facility, though current jail records show at least one man being held for U.S. Marshall Service for nearly two years.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Butler County records showed 1,149 people in custody at the jail, including ICE and other federal detainees. ICE spokesman Khaalid Wall wrote in an email earlier in the day that 109 people were at that time being held for ICE.
Dawn Boyer wrote in a note on Facebook that she and their son visited Espinosa this past Saturday.
“He is doing really well, staying positive and helping other detainees who are less fortunate,” she wrote.
She added that he is limited to 30 minutes for visitation each week, so is asking that only she and their children come, for now.
She concluded that she is feeling thankful for the community support, and believes that between the GoFundMe campaign and a fundraiser planned Sunday (see page 2 for details), they “are well-prepared to meet whatever bond they set for Miguel.”