Immigrants Plead Their Case in Local Court

Avani Kalra, NECIR Summer Journalism Student, Student at Francis W. Parker High School, Writer at The Parker Weekly, Former Staff Writer/Copy Editor, Present Editor in Chief at The Weekly

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Sitting in the corner of a drafty Boston courtroom, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead, Flavio Teodoro Cabrera listened to a translator through big, black headphones and waited for the two words that would change his life.

Cabrera, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, has worked as a cook in Providence, Rhode Island for the past 24 years. This past April, the government ordered his deportation, and Flavio decided to file a cancellation of removal order.

Such scenes are unfolding in courtrooms across America, as the Trump administration intensifies its crackdown on immigrants. “The current administration has really terrified me,” said Jennifer, Flavio’s daughter.

Jennifer and her family huddled in the back row of the courtroom’s wooden benches, arms wrapped around one another. Mostly, the family sat in silence, staring straight ahead.

“I’m scared,” Jennifer said. “I love my father. He’s lived here all my life. His future is riding on today. My future is riding on today.”

Speaking to the judge through tears, Flavio testified that he worried about what would become of his children if he were deported. “They will all suffer,” he said. “They will have no money, no house. They will all have to work to pay the bills.”

Jennifer said that if her father were to be deported, she would not be able to go to college. “I want to be the first in my family to go, but instead I would have to work to help out my mom and brother.”

Her college tuition has to come entirely from her father, Jennifer said, the family would not be able to afford it without her father working in the U.S.

Forty-nine percent of undocumented students who have graduated from high school are presently enrolled in college or have attended college. On the other hand, 71 percent of legal, American born high school graduates attend college, says the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU).

Flavio told the judge that he is especially concerned about his 12-year-old son Anthony, who’s grades plummeted when Flavio received the deportation notice. “He has always been a nervous kid,” Flavio said, “but this has made it much worse.”

Flavio explained that Anthony has been going to see a counselor for his anxiety, and if he returns to Ecuador, Anthony will not be able to afford to go see the counselor. He also worries that the absence of a father in his young son’s life will have a negative impact.

His older son Steven, meanwhile, is training to become a marine, the family attorney, Hans Bremer, told the judge. Bremer argued that his son’s willingness to serve this country should entitle the entire family to a life in the United States.

The couple’s three children, all American citizens, have no desire to move to Ecuador if Flavio gets deported. “We were born here. We grew up here,” Jennifer said. “We don’t know Ecuador.”

U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory has assessed Ecuador as “Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.” The U.S. Embassy advises against travel to the northern border religion, due to “the presence of organized crime, drug- and small-arms trafficking, and incursions by terrorist organizations near Ecuador’s porous border with Colombia.”

After listening to an of testimony, Judge Brenda O’Malley granted the cancellation of deportation.

“It’s obvious Mr. Cabrera is a good person and father, and his family needs him to thrive economically,” she said, after declining to hear the testimonies of his wife and children. “This is all I need to hear.”

The green card given to Flavio will allow him to live and work permanently in the United States. “We are so happy,” said  Rosa Maria, his wife, through tears. “We walked into that room not knowing if Jennifer would go to college, and if my husband could live with us. We have been blessed.”