Former Mexican police officer denied asylum in US shows need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform now
Des Moines, IA. On Sunday night Constantino Morales, a community leader on immigration issues in Iowa, was shot and killed after being deported to Mexico on September 2, 2014. Constantino, a former police officer for the Guerrero State Police Force in Mexico, came to the United States in 2010 after being assaulted three times by armed men and receiving threats while working.
In 2011, Constantino joined Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement when he experienced wage theft in Iowa and racial profiling by the local police departments. He became more involved in immigrant justice issues and quickly became a community leader in Des Moines, helping lead actions related to immigration reform, sharing his testimony and getting others in the community involved in fighting for fair and just immigration reform.
In 2011 Constantino received his first notice to appear before court for residing in the US without documentation. Due to the fact that he had been a police officer in Mexico, Constantino told the immigration judge that he was scared to return home, the judge told him to apply for asylum. He applied for asylum in June 2013 and was denied asylum on February 27, 2014.
He didn’t stop there. Members of the community started a “Stop Constantino’s Deportation” campaign. Community leaders and Constantino met with former Congressman Latham, Senator Grassley, Des Moines Sherriff Bill McCarthy, State Legislators, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff and other appointed and elected officials who could have weighed in to stop Constantino’s deportation. They also started asking other Iowans to write letters and make phone calls to ICE to ask them to cancel the deportation – generating hundreds of postcards and over 200 calls to ICE.
As a former Mexican police officer who stood up to publicly against drug trafficking he knew that if he returned to Mexico he would face grave danger.
At a meeting on August 6, 2013, Constantino told Rep. Latham, “If I am sent back, I will face more violence and I could lose my life. We are in severe need of fair immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. We don’t want any excuses; we know you can make this happen.”
In April 2014, CCI members were in WashingtonD.C. and pleaded with Senator Grassley to take action to stop Constantino’s deportation.
On April 21, 2014, Iowa CCI sent a second request for prosecutorial discretion, with letters of support from Des Moines Sherriff Bill McCarthy and Iowa State Representative Bruce Hunter, but the request was denied. Prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency or officer to exercise discretion in deciding when to prosecute and when not to prosecute based on a priority system has long been recognized as a critical part of U.S. law. Specifically, prosecutorial discretion may be exercised when deciding whether to: issue a detainer; initiate removal proceedings; focus enforcement resources on particular violations or conduct; stop, question, or arrest a particular person; detain or release someone on bond, supervision, or personal recognizance; settle or dismiss a removal case; stay a final order of removal; pursue an appeal; and/or execute a removal order.
The news of Constantino’s death has saddened and angered the Latino and Immigrant Rights Community.
“This tragedy could have been prevented,” said Luis Rodriguez, CCI Leader. “People are dying while Congress and our elected officials fail to act. How many more people have to die?”
Every year, thousands of people are torn apart from their families and deported back to Mexico and other Latin American countries. There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States that live in the shadows, who fear deportation.
CCI and other community leaders are planning a vigil to honor and remember Constantino and his passion for helping undocumented immigrants escape from the shadows. More details to come about time, date and location of vigil. Constantino Morales is survived by a wife and six children.
VIGIL:Sunday April 12 Trinity United Methodist / Las Americas 1548 8th St Des Moines, IA from 12pm – 1:30pm
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