Cantwell Presses Secretary of Homeland Security to Revisit Gamboa, Chehade Immigration Cases
Today during a Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pressed Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to revisit the immigration case of Ernesto Gamboa, who faces deportation despite years of high-risk work as a source for state and federal drug enforcement investigators. Cantwell also pressed Napolitano to review the case of Alonso Chehade, a Peruvian national who faces deportation despite having lived in the U.S. since childhood.
Gamboa worked for the past 14 years as a confidential drug informant for a variety of federal, state, and local agencies. In exchange for helping with more than 90 convictions of major drug dealers and other criminals, he had been promised help with his immigration status. In July, however, Gamboa was detained by U.S. immigration officials and placed in removal proceedings. In part due to the pressure Cantwell put on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reexamine Gamboa's case, Gamboa was released from detention and his removal proceedings were halted.
"To date, no federal or state law enforcement agencies have been willing to step up for him," Cantwell said at today's hearing. "I'm expressing concern over this case because he is in limbo. He cannot work because he doesn't have paperwork, and if he is returned to El Salvador, he's likely to be killed. If we don't help the Gamboas who have been informants for us, how will we recruit other people to help us with finding drug traffickers and criminals? So I ask for your help in this case in understanding what do with Mr. Gamboa."
After explaining that the case may be stalled due in part to the overlapping jurisdictions of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano responded that she would be happy to look into the situation.
Cantwell also called upon Napolitano to extend a deferral of Chehade's pending deportation through the end of 2010. In the interim, Cantwell will be pressing Congress to take action on DREAM Act legislation that could help Chehade and others like him who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, became high academic achievers, but never had a legal pathway to citizenship. Chehade, 22, is a high-achieving student who recently earned his bachelors' degree from the University of Washington. Earlier this year, he took a wrong turn on an interstate highway and was detained after unintentionally crossing into Canada. He now faces deportation.
"I spoke to ICE Assistant Secretary John Mortan about the case, and I am thankful that the government temporarily deferred action on the case until the end of the year," Cantwell said. "However, I would like to renew my call for you to use your discretion to continue to defer action until the end of the 111th Congress so we can pass the DREAM Act and give Alonso and young people like him a chance to remain in the U.S. to give back to the American communities in which they were raised."
Napolitano said she would look into the situation.
Cantwell is co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would provide immigration relief to a select group of students who are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or have enlisted in the military.