Divided Families

Divided Families: Dream Act,1090


Cronkite News Service

TUCSON, Ariz. _ Victor Napoles, a 21-year-old Mexican national who grew up in Tucson, is facing deportation after losing a case that began with him barking at another man’s dog.

That man turned out to be a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Now Napoles, the oldest of five children and “the man of the family,” is facing the consequences of the impulsive late-night joke that occurred more than a year ago in Tucson. The case shows how, for an undocumented immigrant, even a seemingly insignificant joke can have dire effects.

Napoles’ mother, Angelica Martinez, is terrified that her son will be deported.

At 43, Martinez is the mother of five children _ four of them born in the United States and Napoles, who was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, in Mexico. She and Napoles are in this country illegally.

Losing Napoles would be very hard for his younger siblings, Martinez said.

“(He’s) their father, their mentor … he’s their everything,” she said.

Her 10-year-old son, Cesar, looks up to Napoles the most.

“He’s my superhero,” Cesar said. “I love Victor very much. If he leaves, I’ll miss him.”

The Case of the Barking Dog

On Nov. 8, 2007, Martinez was the only family member present for her eldest son’s deportation hearing.

Border Patrol agent James Spiering testified that his reason for pulling Napoles over was “the way he was shouting over my lane at my K-9 dog made me think he wasn’t in the right state of mind.”

“I thought he could have been mentally ill and forgot to take his medicine or was driving under the influence,” Spiering said.

Martinez doesn’t believe the agent’s explanation. And she says the agent was out of line when he said to the judge that he also thought Napoles might have a connection to a drive-by shooting six months previously at the same intersection.

Napoles said he had no idea that a simple bark could land him in such trouble.

“I was taking my friend home and was at a stoplight when an unmarked Durango drove up next to me,” Napoles said. “The dog in the car started barking at me and I thought, ‘Why not?’ and barked back. I had no idea it was a Border Patrol’s dog.”

Shortly after the light turned green and Napoles drove away, he noticed flashing police lights and pulled over.

“The first thing the officer said was, ‘Why were you barking at my dog?’” Napoles said. “I was dumbfounded.”

Napoles was arrested for being in the country illegally and sent to a detention facility in Florence, where he stayed for several days until being released pending his detention hearing.

The Dream Act

Napoles’ lawyer, Maurice Goldman, initially tried to hold off the deportation hearing in hopes that Congress would approve the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

The DREAM Act would have provided amnesty to those under the age of 30 who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 because of their parents’ actions. The child would have had to prove he or she had been in the country for at least five years, had graduated from high school or received a GED or had attended at least two years of college and had good character.

Napoles met all of those qualifications, but in the end, it didn’t matter. The act failed to pass the U.S. Senate, getting 52 out of the 60 votes needed.

“We’ve been waiting for the DREAM Act since Victor turned 18,” Martinez said. “He was in high school when the bill came out, and nothing happened with it. It’s been year after year, just waiting.”

“I was hoping for the DREAM Act,” Goldman said. “Now we have to try a motion to suppress. It’s more like a Band-Aid.”

Napoles lost his deportation hearing and was ordered to leave the country. But he remains while Goldman appeals. Goldman is arguing that the evidence about Victor’s immigration status was unlawfully obtained.

“We’ll try to get the case terminated,” Goldman said. “But if we win, Victor will still walk the streets with no legal status. Without the DREAM Act, we have to find some other form of relief.”

For some, the DREAM Act’s defeat was a victory against undocumented immigrants.

“We oppose all forms of amnesty because they send the message abroad that we are prepared to overlook illegal entry or disregard the terms of legal entry,” said Jack Martin, director of special projects for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “This acts as an incentive to ignore our laws. The illegal immigration situation has become out of control because of our past failure to firmly enforce our immigration law.”

Goldman said he’ll keep on appealing Napoles’ case as long as possible “so we can prolong the deportation.”

Relying on Miracles

Throughout the fight to keep her son in this country, Martinez has shown a determined confidence.

She says she has learned to believe in miracles.

After coming to the United States when Napoles was just a small child, she remarried and had four children, Victoria, 14, David, 12, Christian, 11, and Cesar, 10. The youngest ones all survived severe health issues, she said.

At age 3, David was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness that caused his heart to swell to three times it normal size and can cause serious heart damage. After three days in the hospital, the crisis passed, and David has had no symptoms since, Martinez said.

Christian was 7 when he went into a coma due to severe allergies, she said. He regained consciousness in three days, with no apparent long-lasting effects.

The last miracle involved her youngest child. When Cesar was 4 weeks old, she found him not breathing and unresponsive in his crib. He was rushed to the emergency room where he was revived. Doctors estimated he had been clinically dead for several minutes and would be mentally challenged, but he has suffered no long-term consequences, Martinez said.

Her husband was with her through those difficult times, but after a disagreement a year ago, Martinez said she kicked him out. She alleges that her husband retaliated by reporting her illegal status to authorities.

“He thought if he can take the kids, it would be a way of hurting me,” she said.

As a result, Martinez faces a deportation hearing of her own.

“If I lose my case, then the kids will come with me to Mexico,” she said. “We’ll figure something out.

“We have a very strong faith. We have so many miracles in (our) home.”


PHOTOS: Click thumbnails to see full-resolution images and download

Victor Napoles, 21, who grew up in Tucson, is facing deportation to Mexico. (Cronkite News Service Photo / Branden Eastwood)

Victor Napoles (center) jokes around with his sister, Victoria, brother David and mother, Angelica Martinez, (right) after church services. (Cronkite News Service Photo / Branden Eastwood)

Victor Napoles and his sister, Victoria (right) spend a Sunday afternoon playing Jenga and other games with their brothers. (Cronkite News Service Photo / Branden Eastwood)

Victor Napoles’ attorney, Maurice Goldman, plans to keep appealing Napoles’ case. (Cronkite News Service Photo / Branden Eastwood)