Luck be a lady
Lawyer shows up from out of nowhere to help Pasadena man at critical immigration hearing
By Kevin Uhrich 03/14/2013
Just when it seemed Pasadena’s Andres Romero, who was detained by federal immigration officials after being released from state prison shortly before Christmas, would be shipped off to Mexico, a lawyer appearing in immigration court Tuesday on another matter temporarily took up Romero’s case, consulted with his family members and sat in on his behalf free of charge.
Although the 53-year-old former local gang counselor has lived in the United States for nearly 50 years, and has been married to a United States citizen for 33 years, Romero never became a naturalized citizen, as did his mother, Mercedes Hernandez.
At the request of Immigration Administrative Judge Anna Ho, attorney Patricia Corrales, who had walked into Ho’s court just prior to another case she was handling, helped out Romero, who is still incarcerated at the Adelanto Detention Facility near Victorville but communicated with the downtown LA courtroom via two-way camera. After Corrales, a veteran immigration prosecutor now in private practice in Pasadena, agreed to get involved, Ho called a 15-minute recess and the veteran attorney took aside Romero’s mother, his wife Cheryl, sons Andres III and Philip, a US Marine currently stationed in San Diego, and this reporter to explain why freeing Romero will not be easy.
During the briefing, Corrales explained that “There is absolutely no relief. He is an aggravated felon,” she said of Romero’s 2004 conviction on attempted burglary charges. With that said, outside of being pardoned by the governor for the conviction, Romero has a few available courses. One is he could be considered a “derivative” citizen if he was 18 or younger when his mother became a citizen. Here, citizenship is conveyed to children through the naturalization of their parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by US citizen parents. Another option is Romero could argue that he was a crime victim when he lived in the United States to qualify for what is called a U-Visa, which gives victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to four years.
“It’s not impossible, but it’s going to be difficult,” Corrales said of finding documents validating the U-Visa application. “It’s worth the effort to see if that can be done.” Unlike criminal cases, attorneys are not provided to those involved in immigration proceedings. Romero is currently not represented by a lawyer.
It was clear that Ho and government prosecutor Briana Corso were impressed with Romero’s record of working with AmeriCorps and other service organizations in the 1990s, as well as his devoted wife and clean-cut sons, with Philip attending the proceedings in uniform and Andres dressed in a tie and sweater. She directed Corso to dig through Hernandez’s citizenship records to determine exactly how old Romero was when she became a citizen.
“It’s not that I don’t want to help him, but any authority I have is very limited,” Ho said, referring to Romero’s status as a felon.
Ho set March 29 for another hearing in downtown LA.