After more than two-and-a-half years in the local immigration court system, day laborer and Southern 32 member Joaquin Navarro Hernandez — who was featured prominently in our recent cover story *— seems likely to avoid deportation. In a hearing in New Orleans Immigration Court today, Judge William Wayne Stogner said that the government's primary evidence against Navarro Hernandez, U.S. Border Patrol's I-213 (record of deportable alien) was effectively useless.
"I have a high degree of certainty that the document is not reliable and won't sustain the government's burden," Stogner said. He did not suppress the document, instead giving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 30 days to attempt to prove its reliability or, failing that, provide new evidence against Navarro Hernandez. If not, Navarro Hernandez's case will be terminated.
"I think that's going to end it," Stogner said before adjourning.
(More after the jump)
Video: Navarro Hernandez after the hearing
In arguments prior to Stogner's decision, Navarro Hernandez's attorney, J.J. Rosenbaum of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, read from the I-213, finding a number of inaccuracies in just one sentence of a Border Patrol agent's narrative of the arrest, which occurred near the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Franklin Avenue, where many local day laborers congregate.
"I was able to apprehend one of these suspects after a brief foot chase," the I-213 reads.
Border Patrol later admitted, in testimony pertaining to a federal civil court case Navarro Hernandez successfully pursued against the agency, that the agent did not pursue Hernandez alone. Rather a citizen and several New Orleans Police Department officers assisted in the apprehension. Navarro Hernandez claims that the citizen attacked him, hitting and forcibly restraining him until police arrived. (That claim was corroborated by an NOPD dispatch report, read aloud in court today, of a call from a nearby resident who saw "a black man in a black shirt" holding down a Hispanic man at the time and in the location of Navarro Hernandez's apprehension.)
Furthermore, in testimony from Navarro Hernandez's lawsuit against the agency (submitted as evidence in his deportation case) a Border Patrol agent said that day laborer corner raids were outside that agency's purview. Finally, Rosenbaum said, the document failed to provide adequate probable cause for the arrest, alleging that he was approached and apprehended due to racial profiling.
"Today the court stood with the people and the community," Rosenbaum said during a rally following the hearing. Rosenbaum added that immigration arrests based on racial profiling and weak evidence "will not stand. "
At the rally Navarro Hernandez held a blown up copy of the arrest document, with post-it notes marking every alleged inconsistency and inaccuracy.
"The numbers show all the lies Border Patrol used to arrest Joaquin. We're asking the government to investigate these lies" in this case and others, rather than continuing to aggressively pursue deportations for workers, Rosenbaum said.
Navarro Hernandez has filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security.
*ICE attorney Veronica Cromwell submitted the article as evidence against Navarro Hernandez today, claiming that he admitted entering the country illegally in interview. She also said that the article contained information from the I-213, making it public information and therefore rendering moot any argument that it should be suppressed as evidence.
However, as Rosenbaum pointed out, Navarro Hernandez did not admit anything — he wouldn't even say his country of origin — in the article. Also, the I-213 was already public. It had been submitted as evidence in his federal lawsuit against Border Patrol. Rosenbaum was arguing that it should be suppressed because, as the article itself explains in some detail, there were questions as to its credibility and veracity. Stogner ruled that the article was admissible but, after scanning it, said he found no evidence it would help the government prove its case.
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