Family members of an Army veteran, and Purple Heart recipient, pleaded to federal officials to release their son from custody. On Monday night, Ricardo Rocha, ICE spokesman, said he was released from custody.
Gerardo Armijo was locked up at the Port Isabel Detention Center. He was being held there while authorities sought to get him deported to Mexico for several drug-related convictions.
Armijo’s parents and aunt said they wanted see the veteran released from jail, while he fought his immigration deportation case.
Carlos Garcia, Armijo’s attorney, said, “This is an American hero. He shouldn’t be locked up in detention. He should be able to fight his case,” he said. “He’s not a flight risk. He’s not a danger to the community. They should use their discretion and allow him to pursue his immigration relief while he’s not detained.”
Garcia said Armijo holds a permanent resident status and is in the country legally. But he is facing deportation to Mexico because of several drug convictions.
The law states if a resident alien is convicted of one possession of cocaine charge or possessing a certain amount of marijuana, that person can be deported. So legally the government has the right.
The family said Armijo started getting into trouble after returning home for his last tour in Iraq.
Armijo was injured in Iraq, when his tank blew up by a couple of mines. He received a Purple Heart and was honorably discharged.
“This is a man who almost gave his life for our country. He deserves the respect that he merits, that he earned. I can just imagine the trauma that he suffered having his tank blown up,” Garcia said. “Seeing his fellow soldiers killed and this is the way we’re treating him. This is not the way we should be treating Purple Heart veterans, people who volunteered and given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
The family said Armijo knows he has a problem. He gets treatment and has been drug free for six months. They said they feared keeping him locked up would’ve cause him more harm.
“We’re hurting for what he’s going through. Clearly, he made some errors like any other person, but we want them to give him an opportunity,” Angelia Armijo, Armijo’s mother, said.
The family said they don’t want to see him deported. They’re fighting the case. They said he knows no one in Mexico.
“I think the government is doing something bad to him, because for him to go and fight for so many years, this shouldn’t be happening,” Armijo’s aunt, Maria Ana Hernandez, said.
The family said Armijo should stay in the country he fought for and almost died for.
“If he made a mistake, he should be punished. But don’t send him to Mexico,” Jose Raudel Armijo, the veteran’s father, said. “He helped defend the United States. Yes, he made an error but they should allow him to stay here.”
“I took the case pro bono because I felt so strongly about this,” Armijo’s attorney said. “We’re going to fight it to the end.”
Garcia said he submitted a request to ICE officials on three separate occasions seeking Armijo’s release.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached to ICE about the matter. Jennifer D. Elzea, ICE deputy press secretary, released the following statement:
“ICE respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, when appropriate, for members of the armed forces who have honorably served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the U.S. military as a positive factor that should be considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”
We also reached to State Representative Oscar Longoria. He said he plans to contact the county veteran’s affairs office and the Texas Veterans Affairs Commission to see what they can do to help.