A California Congressman is fighting on behalf of two previously deported illegal immigrants who were arrested on their way to work a construction project on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.
“To be just rounded up and processed for immediate deportation simply because he showed up at work at a federal facility and somebody ran a database query that he was undocumented?” U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman told CBS San Francisco. “This is the kind of inhumane, summary deportation that even President Trump has said we weren’t going to see.”
Hugo Mejia and co-worker Rodrigo Nunez attempted to enter the Air Force base on May 3 and security officers conducting a routine security check realized both were illegal immigrants from Mexico and contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Neither of the men have criminal records but ICE officials arrested them based on decades old removal orders stemming from an illegal crossing years ago. The federal agency has since moved for expedited deportations without a court hearing, and their families and immigration advocates don’t think that’s fair.
“The first thing that came to my mind was why me?” Menja told the Daily Democrat in an interview from the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center that was translated from Spanish.
“I’ve been here for 17 years and my record is excellent,” he said. “I’ve never done anything to anyone. My bills are paid on time, I have a clean record, we’ve never asked the government for help.”
A spokeswoman for Travis Air Force Base confirmed the men were taken into custody, but did not reveal whether turning illegal immigrants over to ICE was routine procedure or whether the officer who reported them did so on his own volition.
“As part of normal protocol, Security Forces personnel entered the individuals’ information into the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which identified them as undocumented immigrants,” the spokeswoman told the Daily Democrat. “Security Forces then telephoned Immigration Customs Enforcement, who confirmed the status of the individuals and responded to take custody.”
Security expert Jeff Harp said enforcement of immigration laws at a federal facility is a no-brainer.
“It’s really easy to enforce the immigration laws that this administration has enacted, because they own that base. It’s a federal facility,” he said.
Security at the base is also clearly defined at the entrance, he said.
“It is an Air Force base and has sensitive information and classified information,” Harp said. “They have a security protocol and you can see it when you go there, it will tell you what they are doing for various threat levels.”
The men, who are described as ideal employees at S&R Drywall, are now receiving support from Huffman, their community, and immigration attorney Alisa Whitfield to fight their deportations, though Whitfield said overturning the expedited orders is unlikely.
“The process usually ends very, very poorly for the persona detained” in the nonjudicial deportation process, Whitfield said.