Happy Valley man facing deportation gets two-week reprieve to make legal case to stay
Edson Barrera Gonzalez caught a break Wednesday. Immigration advocates working on behalf of the 20-year-old Happy Valley man won a two-week stay on his deportation to Mexico.
That means the clock is ticking on finding an Oregon attorney to help with legal maneuvers to make the stay permanent.
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.
The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment, headed by Dallas real estate developer Ralph Isenberg, asked that Gonzalez be placed on "bench probation," which would be overseen by Clackamas County Circuit Court. That would allow a judge to treat his crime as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, stopping the threat of immediate deportation.
"We're not asking he be given one break the judge did not already give him," said Ralph Isenberg, an immigrant advocate helping Gonzalez.
Judge Thomas Rastetter sent a letter Tuesday saying that Isenberg needs to find an attorney licensed to practice in Oregon to move forward with the motion.
The same day, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Seattle granted a two-week reprieve from deportation to allow Gonzalez and his advocates time to get bench probation.
Isenberg's center is a small operation that's fought more than 150 cases, most involving children losing parents. "We're like the emergency room of immigration law," Isenberg said.
That often involves pressuring authorities and drumming up attention on the case.
Isenberg helped Hector Lopez, a 22-year-old Milwaukie man who was deported two years ago, despite a clean record, get back to the country. On Monday, Lopez chauffeured Gonzalez's parents and the Rev. Peter Johnson, a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr., as they campaigned for Gonzalez at the Clackamas County Circuit Courthouse in Oregon City and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Portland.
"I think the judge thinks there was a little grandstanding," Isenberg said. "You can say what you want about the maneuver, I needed to get some attention on this deportation."
Johnson talked with authorities about the emotional stress Gonzalez's family is under, the allegedly poor legal representation they received and the danger of sending him back to a country he left when he was 6 years old.
Hector Lopez (right), a 22-year-old Milwaukie resident, is helping Barbara and Dagoberto Gonzalez keep their son from deportation. Lopez was deported at 20 years old, but the organization who is helping the Gonzalez's, helped him get back. The Gonzalez's don't speak much English, so he is helping translate and chaffeur them to the Clackamas County Courthouse.