Jan. 31, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
A Jackson Heights man who is in jeopardy of being deported is getting the backing of a local immigrant organization to help him stay.
The Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network, a local group that aides immigrants, has created an online petition to help Alfredo Flores, an undocumented Mexican national, remain in the country.
Flores, who is married to a citizen and is a father of three, is awaiting a date for a final hearing, when a judge will ultimately determine whether he can remain in the U.S.
The group created an online petition on Jan. 13 calling on the U.S. government to allow Flores to stay with his family until he attains the legal documentation necessary to become a permanent resident.
“It helps make the case that Flores is a valuable member of the community,” Marcus Longmuir, a JHISN member said. The petition, he added, might help sway the judge in terms of whether Flores is permitted to stay.
The group started circulating a paper petition at an event held at the Renaissance Charter, located at 35-59 81st St, on Martin Luther King Day. They generated about a dozen signatures and helped spread the word. They then posted the petition online, which has accumulated about 130 signatures as of press time.
Flores, who has been living in the U.S. for 15 years, got caught up in the cross hairs of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last July after he inadvertently crossed the Canadian border while riding a Greyhound bus to Seattle to meet his brother.
Flores, who was unaware that the bus route included Canada, was arrested and detained at the border near Buffalo, N.Y.
Wendy Valverde, his wife, frantically raised $10,000 for her husband’s bond and he was released after 20 days of detainment. He has been waiting for a court date since—which has been pushed back three times. The most recent date was Jan. 16 but it was deferred due to the government shutdown.
JHISN said it will keep the petition open until Flores’ hearing.
Flores has been at his Jackson Heights home since his release and has been working temporarily for a catering business for extra money while waiting for his court date.
Valverde said that the whole episode has put an enormous strain on her family. She said that the family—which includes three children below the age of 6–is dependent on her receptionist salary at a Woodside orthodontist office. Furthermore, to add to the stress, her mother is being treated for colon cancer.
“I need [Alfredo] to go back to being the head of the household,” Valverde said. “I can’t keep working like this. It’s unstable for the kids never knowing who’s going to be taking care of them.”
Valverde said that her children– 5-year-old Eduardo, 4-year-old Valentina, and 2-year-old Julian—have all been shaken by the uncertainty, particularly when their father was being detained.
She said it has hit Eduardo the hardest.
In the midst of the couple’s tedious waiting period, Flores’ lawyer Cynthia Ventura of the nonprofit organization New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) has been building his case.
Ventura was assigned to Flores’ case by New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), a public defense program for immigrants facing deportation that was launched in New York City in 2013.
The organization works with NYLAG to assign defense lawyers for immigrants such as Flores.
Ventura got the ball rolling on the petition by reaching out to the JHISN, which has helped people in Flores’ situation before.
Ventura said the petition will help. “It’s always a positive factor,” she said. “He very plainly does have ties to the community that wants him to stay.”
Meanwhile, Flores remains anxious about how the case will unfold.
“The place I am from in Mexico is very dangerous and I know for sure it will affect my wife and kids if I get sent back,” Flores said. “I want to watch my kids grow with my wife, so I want to fight to stay in the U.S.”