Some folks out there really, really hate illegal immigrants. That much is clear from some of the comments left on Mandy Oaklander's story about the recent raid on the former Oasis nightclub.
But only the most soulless alien-hater could cheer the deportation of Rigoberto Damian Calderon. The 26-year-old has worked to support his family and has no criminal record. He committed his only "crime" at 6 years old, when he and his two younger brothers illegally crossed the U.S. border in the backseat of their parents' car.
Hundreds of illegals get booted back to Mexico from Kansas City each month.
Calderon's case is unique because he qualified for a "cancellation of
removal" hearing, a process only available to those who have "good moral character" and have lived in
the United States for a minimum of 10 years.
Calderon can't remember anything about his childhood in Guanajuato, Mexico. His memories begin in Kansas City, where he attended school in Raytown until he was 17. He found out that he wasn't an American citizen when it came time to fill out college applications; his parents told him that he didn't have a Social Security number. He took a job bagging groceries at a Happy Food Center. Nine years later, Calderon has worked his way up to produce manager, a salaried position.
In 2001, Calderon married his wife, Gloria, who's also undocumented. They have three children: Gloria Michelle, born in 2002; Emely Alexandria, born in 2005; and a third born recently. Happy Foods doesn't offer health insurance, so Calderon bought insurance through a private family plan. The family owns a home in Kansas City. Their entire extended family lives in the States.
In late 2007, Calderon and his father bought a car that was for sale in another part of the state and drove together to pick it up. They were pulled over in northern Missouri, where officers informed them that the new car's plates matched a different vehicle. Further search of the car revealed wads of cash hidden in the paneling. Calderon and his dad were cleared of all suspicion regarding the car, but because they couldn't produce proper I.D., Homeland Security was alerted. Calderon's father was sent back to Mexico almost immediately.
Calderon consulted immigration lawyer Angela Williams. She was able to stall Calderon's deportation because he's a special case: an undocumented immigrant with more than 10 years in this country who has U.S.-born dependents. If Williams could prove that deporting Calderon would cause his children "extremely unusual and exceptional hardship," he could be granted permission to stay.
In Kansas City, Calderon is the active, working, loving breadwinner of a lower-middle-class family. In Mexico, he's nothing. "Sending him back would make him homeless in a foreign country,"
Williams tells The Pitch.
On October 14, 2009, Immigration Court Judge Paula Davis
heard Calderon's arguments at Kansas City's branch of the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Davis took particular note of the subjective nature of determining "extreme hardship" and quoted a citation in immigration case law that sticks up for judicial discretion: "The hardship standard is not so restrictive that only a handful of applicants, such as those who have qualifying relatives with serious medical conditions, will qualify for relief." In other words, it's not supposed to be near impossible for an illegal alien to prevail.
Calderon did prevail. Davis canceled his deportation. But the celebration was short -- the attorney with the Department of Homeland Security appealed Davis' decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the appeals board overturned Davis' decision on December 27. The reason: The hardship on Calderon's children just isn't hard enough. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers called almost immediately after the board rendered its decision and informed Calderon of his fate: He must be out of the country by February 6.
More and more of Williams' clients are Mexican nationals who were brought to the United States as children. Some of them don't know a word of Spanish. "I don't think our immigration law ever contemplated the 25-year-old who has been here since he was 2," she says.
Every day, Williams says, she sees parents of U.S.-born children getting deported, another clue that so-called "anchor babies" don't exist. They're just babies. Or, in the case of the Calderons, they're American kids growing up without their father.