Lawmakers Lobby ICE to Release Illegal Immigrant, Arguing He Could Stay Under Pending Reform Bill

Connecticut's senior senator is wading further into the case of an illegal immigrant scheduled to be deported after he was picked up in a robbery case, claiming that the Group of Eight immigration bill would keep him in the country.

Josemaria Islas was arrested last year, near the factory where he works, on suspicion of involvement in the theft of a bicycle. Islas spent four months in jail awaiting trial; with scant evidence, the judge reduced the charge to a misdemeanor breach of peace and ordered "accelerated rehabilitation" that would expunge the charge from his record within three months.

Immigration activists say Connecticut officials broke their promise to "only honor ICE hold requests for convicted criminals who are threats to public safety or national security," and put an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold on Islas, who has been in the country for eight years.

Islas' history reportedly includes being caught by the Border Patrol four times while trying to cross illegally into the U.S.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal today wrote ICE Director John Morton for the second time asking him to stop the deportation, arguing that "possible legislation ...might allow him to remain in this country."

Blumenthal claims that a section of the Group of Eight immigration reform bill provides for immigrants subject to a final removal order to receive registered provisional immigrant status and terminate the removal order.

"As a member of the Judiciary Committee who took an active role in shaping S. 744, I was pleased that the committee approved legislation to retain provisions that would protect immigrants like Mr. Islas," Blumenthal wrote. "Further, the Board of Immigration Appeals continues to wrestle with the question of whether the deportation of an immigrant with Mr. Islas’s history violates the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment and Fifth Amendment due process rights."

"The legal basis for deporting Mr. Islas has been questioned by Congress and challenged in the courts. More fundamentally, Mr. Islas has no criminal record, and there is no evidence that he poses any threat to his neighbors in the United States," the senator's appeal continues. "Rather, Mr. Islas’s history indicates that if he is allowed to remain in the country he calls home he will use that opportunity to continue contributing to the community that he has embraced and that has embraced him. I understand and respect the difficult and important tasks that ICE faces, but I cannot understand how deporting Mr. Islas would be the best use of ICE’s resources or best serve the intent of the law."

Blumenthal said "deporting Mr. Islas or others like him while the legal basis for their deportation may yet be eliminated would be wasteful, unfair, and unduly harsh."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-Conn.) have also been lobbying ICE to revoke the deportation order against Islas.

Immigration activists have latched onto the case as a rallying point, staging a number of demonstrations outside court and congressional offices.

“Once immigration reform is enacted, he may find himself on a path towards a green card and eventual U.S. citizenship,” Murphy wrote to ICE.

DeLauro and Blumenthal argued in an earlier letter that “it seems grossly unfair to be deporting individuals today solely on immigration violations, given the possible legal path to residency they could be offered in a few months."