CEDAR RAPIDS — With presidential candidate Julian Castro at his side and more than 20 supporters waiting outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Cedar Rapids, Jose Reynaldo Robinson Palacios asked to have the electronic monitoring bracelet removed from his ankle.
ICE staff did what he asked, detaching the device that made Robinson Palacios feel like a criminal.
“Today is a day I couldn’t have hoped for,” Robinson Palacios said through an interpreter, pausing to wipe away tears and lift the leg of his jeans to show an ankle free of the bracelet used to track his movements as an undocumented immigrant facing deportation from the United States.
Castro said he attended Robinson Palacios’s mandatory check-in with ICE to learn more about what refugees face and to lend support to one person navigating what he called a broken system.
“We can’t attend everybody’s hearing personally, but through the policy that I’ve put out and through the way that we articulate a vision for our immigration system, I hope it helps us start a conversation about immigration.”
Castro listened to stories from Robinson Palacios and other refugees living at the Catholic Worker House in Iowa City. Castro, a San Antonio, Texas, native who served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama, spoke alternately in Spanish and English.
Robinson Palacios, 33, first fled Honduras as a teenager after being forcibly recruited as a child soldier. He’s lived in the United States more than in Honduras, he said Tuesday, and made another trip north last fall with a caravan of thousands of migrants.
The caravan walked for more than 50 days through mountainous passes, forests and cities, helping each other across chest-high water of a Guatemalan river.
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“My son, Isaac, doesn’t know how to swim,” said Jaky Torres Toro, another Honduran refugee living at the Catholic Worker House. She made the arduous journey last fall with her son, now 11, who has some physical disabilities. “Jose was one of the people who stepped up to help him.”
But when Robinson Palacios got to the U.S. border, he was held in a private detention facility in Adelanto, Calif., for seven months until the Catholic Worker House sponsored him and paid his bail.
His requests for asylum have been denied but his removal order is temporarily stayed pending an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Castro’s immigration plan calls for creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people already living, working and going to school in the United States. On his mind were the more than 700,000 young people who have legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the legality of which was considered Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Of course I’m worried,” Castro said, noting the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. “At the same time I’m hopeful. I know that even if DACA doesn’t exist in the future, there’s still going to be a push for protecting the people.”
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