Almost deported, Edson Barrera Gonzalez wins freedom at Mexican border
Today was a close call for Edson Barrera Gonzalez. The 20-year-old Happy Valley man ended up just miles from the Mexico border when a Clackamas County Circuit Court judge signed an order allowing him to stay in the country.
Gonzalez has been held in an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Tacoma, Wash., for a year. Tuesday night, he contacted his parents and immigration advocates working on his behalf to say he was told to pack up.
On Wednesday morning, the Dallas-based Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment frantically began trying to figure out where he was and how to keep him in the country.
Gonzalez, then a 19-year-old employee at Macy's department store, was arrested last year for giving unauthorized discounts and ringing up false returns to benefit his parents, whom, he said, were struggling financially.
He pleaded guilty to first-degree theft, a felony, although under the terms of a plea agreement, his crime would be reduced to a misdemeanor once he paid back $1,526 and served 10 days in jail and two years on probation.
However, his felony conviction triggered deportation proceedings before he could meet the requirements to reduce his conviction to a misdemeanor. Gonzalez and his family have since paid restitution, and his advocates contend that he never should have been treated as a felon.
Texas real estate developer Ralph Isenberg helped Hector Lopez in 2010, a 22-year-old Milwaukie man who was deported two years ago, despite a clean record, get back to the country. For the past month, Isenberg has focused on helping free Gonzalez, because Isenberg thinks he received poor legal advice and would be in danger in Mexico because he would stick out as a foreigner.
"He will be targeted and he will be killed," Isenberg said. "And in Edson's case, he'd be better in a jail in America than dead in Mexico."
Judge Thomas Ratstetter granted an emergency motion Wednesday afternoon to treat Gonzalez's crime as a misedemeanor, which stops the threat of immediate deporation.
Isenberg offered to pay to fly Gonzalez back to Oregon tomorrow, with the hope he will be free to see his parents, re-enroll in Clackamas Community College and qualify for the White House's "deferred action" program.
The Isenberg Center's original plan included a temporary stay of deportation to allow Gonzalez to show he deserved misdemeanor treatment, and was on its way. However, with deportation underway, that went out the window.
"There's not much more we can take; it's time to release the young man," Isenberg said. "We can't go through this every week."
Isenberg said he still wants Gonzalez to complete the 100 hours of community service and an anti-theft class as an act of goodwill. But, he is more focused right now on the relief of Gonzalez's parents and getting him back home as soon as possible.