Undocumented immigrant, resident of Lothian, granted another year in U.S.

For now, Ricardo Pineda can breathe a sigh of relief.

His wife, Veronica Castro, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, will stay in the U.S. for at least another year.

Castro, 38, is under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for years and is required to periodically report her status. At her scheduled check-in Tuesday at ICE offices in downtown Baltimore, she was granted another year in the U.S.

"We were very afraid because the new administration has been doing some changes that would allow my wife to be deported. She could be flying to Mexico right now," said Pineda, 47, who lives with him and their four children in Lothian in Anne Arundel County.

While Castro's husband is a U.S. citizen, she cannot automatically receive citizenship through their marriage of 20 years.

Her husband said Castro was denied citizenship after she attempted to enter the U.S. illegally, seeking surgery for a son, in 1998. She entered the U.S. in 2001 and has been under ICE supervision since 2011.

"That was her only crime, attempt to enter. We are being punished more than 20 years later," Pineda said.

"Immigration laws are unforgiving," said Joshua Doherty, Castro's attorney, who works at Ayuda, a nonprofit that serves immigrant families. Any immigrant who has run afoul of customs officials faces an uphill battle gaining citizenship, he said.

"What is most important for us is that Veronica is able to go home and be with her family," Doherty said. "She's able to continue providing them the support and care that she has been providing them her whole life."

Castro must continue to comply with her orders of supervision, which require her to check in annually with ICE officials, he said.

Advocates for cracking down on immigrants who are in the country without legal documentation insist that the nation's laws be enforced.

 

"ICE makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, considering all the merits and factors of each case while adhering to current agency priorities, guidelines and legal mandates," said agency spokesman Matthew Bourke.

Castro and Pineda emerged from the downtown building to cheers from about 50 immigration reform advocates and other supporters, who rallied in a light rain to raise awareness about Castro's case.

"We are celebrating today, however we know today, people are walking into this office right here and they are not walking out and rejoining their families. This is one victory, but there are hundreds of people facing deportation," said Richard Morales, the immigration policy director for PICO National Network, a national network of faith-based community organizations.

Morales said his group plans to continue to stage rallies at other hearings.

"We are going to keep coming back so that no one stands alone," he said.

In Spanish, Castro thanked the group for their support. As a stay-at-home mother who cares for two disabled children, deportation would cause great hardship for their family, Pineda said.

He said their 17-year-old son suffers from brain damage, and another son has cerebral palsy. Pineda said he left the Army on a medical discharge and is on disability because of several medical problems, including diabetes. His wife helps him administer his insulin shots and reminds him to take his medicine.

"She is my caregiver," he said. If she were deported to Mexico, he said, the rest of the family would return with her.

Returning could put his eldest son's life at risk, he said. The 17-year-old son must have at least two additional surgeries that Pineda said are riskier in Mexico.

But at least for one year, he said, the family doesn't have to worry.

"She's still in limbo, but she's with us right now," Pineda said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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