A local United State Navy veteran from Los Banos faces deportation. On Thursday, a group of supporters held a protest to speak out against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and they also asked California Senator Dianne Feinstein to keep him from being detained.
Veteran Joaquin Sotelo said he came to America when he was eight-years old. With a Green Card, he was able to enlist in the U.S. Military after high school. He served in the United States Navy from 2001 to 2006, on board the USS Tarawa, and was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he returned home, he struggled with substance abuse as a result of his deployment and was convicted of several crimes, including drug possession and domestic violence.
“I take responsibility for every single thing that I have caused, everything that I have caused,” said Sotelo.
Sotelo’s attorneys said he served prison time from 2014 to 2015, and was put into ICE detention right after that. He’s been out on bond since January 2017, and faces re-detention soon.
He stated, “Instead of deporting us, there should be more, more benefits from the VA (United States Department of Veterans Affairs) that we should receive before they decide to actually deport us.”
Sotelo said he served his time in prison already, and shouldn’t be detained by ICE during his deportation proceedings.
Brisa Cruz leads the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. She helped lead Thursday’s protest.
“We’re just showing support, solidarity, not just to this case, but like Joaquin’s, there’s many, many, many families that have been separated. We don’t want that to happen in this case,” stated Cruz. “We do whatever it takes to to be able to help them and not be deported.”
A spokesperson for Sen. Feinstein sent a statement that said, “Mr. Sotelo has contacted Senator Feinstein’s office for casework assistance, and the senator has a long-standing policy of not discussing details of casework requests due to privacy considerations. As a general matter though, she doesn’t have the power to stop a deportation. She can only make inquiries with the Department of Homeland Security on a person’s behalf.”