Immigration Advocates Highlight Family Separation Cases
January 28, 2013

Photo by Jude Joffe-Block
Vasant Shetty speaks at the Arizona Dream Act Coalition on Jan. 25.

PHOENIX -- As part of a bigger effort to pressure the Obama Administration and Arizona's senators for immigration reform, advocates in Phoenix are highlighting families that stand to be separated because of deportation.

Arizona's Dream Act Coalition launched the "National Family Unity" campaign on Friday. It comes weeks after the mother of Erika Andiola, a coalition leader, was detained and then released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid a flurry of media attention.

"It has become too much of a culture in America to see families separated due to the broken immigraiton system," said Yadira Garcia, of the coalition. "This cannot continue and we do not want one more family separated."

Now the advocates are highlighting the case of the Shetty family. The father in the family, Vasant Shetty, is a 59-year-old citizen of India who is facing deportation.

Shetty came to the U.S. legally in 1998 and had lawful status for several years, according to his attorney, Elisa Ross.

"I [couldn't] afford to give my kids a good education in India," Shetty said. "That is the main purpose that I came."

He wound up in removal proceedings after his petition for residency through an employer was ultimately denied, Ross said.

Shetty and his wife currently own and manage two motels in Seligman, Ariz.

Ross said the Obama administration should use prosecutorial discretion to close Shetty's case, since she claims he has no criminal record or previous immigration violations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not immediately confirm any details on the Shetty case.

"Why is this person in removal proceedings, when there's other cases where someone has a felony, or they have repeated immigration violations, or they are a gang member or a risk to national security," Ross said. "Those people should be before an immigration judge. Not people like Mr. Shetty."

In 2011, the head of ICE issued a memo that stated priorities for deportation included criminals, recent border crossers, and those who disregarded previous deportation orders or "obstruct" immigration controls by reentering the country after deportation or obtaining benefits through fraud. According to the guidance, ICE trial attorneys can administratively close cases that do not represent those priorities.

As of December, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dismissed 4.8 percent of pending deportation cases through prosecutorial discretion, according to public records compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Phoenix's rate is slightly lower than the national average at 4 percent of cases closed.