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Detroit immigrant, a step away from citizenship, waits for Covid19 shutdown to end

Advocates help avert ICE’s last ditch deportation attempt before oath is taken

After more than 40 years in the states, Rosario Camargo has finally been cleared to take the oath to be a US citizen despite an all too routine effort by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport him before he had the chance to be sworn in. Fortunately, fast action by Michigan United immigration advocates cut through the red tape and cleared the way to naturalization.

Camargo came to the US in the 1970’s to work in the agriculture industry and was able to apply for status through the Special Agricultural Worker program in the late 1980s. He received his lawful permanent residence in 1990. But during a hunting trip in 1994, he was charged with illegally transporting his shotgun. It was in his trunk, but Camargo drove a hatchback. He pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense and served a 36 month, non-reporting probation. He has not been arrested for anything else since.

In 2012, Camargo decided to become a naturalized American. He passed the civics exam and subsequent interview, then waited two years for the oath ceremony to make it official. Michigan United navigators sought answers from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but instead received a notice from ICE ordering him to report at 8AM the next day or be subject to arrest. Citizenship might have slipped away from Camargo if not for a remarkable series of events. After he reported to ICE, advocates were able to provide the critical information to ensure that ICE set the bond amount to the minimum $1,500 which his brother-in-law was able to pay the same day. His court date was set for November 29, 2020 because half of the immigration judges’ seats were left vacant. Such cases had been slowly stacking up in the past 10 years as ICE continually obtained budget increases while the immigration court got cutbacks. Despite their caseload, Camargo’s team was able to get a motion to advance approved, moving his hearing date up to September 19, 2019.

“A team of volunteers and staff prepared Mr. Camargo’s application for support. He’d suffered cardiac episodes, an ischemic stroke among other health issues. Documentation of his health would be important for the court to hear,” said Diego Bonesatti, Legal Services Director at Michigan United. “While we were waiting, his father fell ill and he was unable to visit before he died. People in removal proceedings cannot leave the country prior to a decision by the court, otherwise, they are automatically ordered deported. So at that point, our goal was to move the court to resolve this matter so he could travel to Mexico and see his frail, elderly mother.”

When Camargo finally got his day in court, the judge granted his application for cancellation of removal and, remarkably, the ICE prosecutor waived any appeal. With his lawful permanent residence status restored, Camargo was again able to visit his mother last year.

At the beginning of this year, USCIS finally approved the citizenship case Camargo filed in 2012. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed the oath ceremony that ICE tried to halt. So for now, like many others aspiring new Americans, he waits for the state of emergency to give way to his long awaited pledge of allegiance and looks forward to being able to vote for the first time in the coming election in November.

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