Jose Nicolas Ramos-Portillo lived in a Salvadoran village where literally everybody knew him.
But he fled the village in fear of gangs, and found his way to the United States. When immigration officials asked for an address, he gave them the village address because his family would get his mail for him there.
He didn't expect it to become a federal case, but a lawyer had to argue about it to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That's because the government issued a deportation order against him without sending any notice.
Ramos-Portillo appealed the deportation order, saying he never received it. The officials admitted they never sent one, but said it was his fault and it was too late to appeal.
In oral arguments covered by Courthouse News, the Fifth Circuit judges pointed out Ramos-Portillo didn't check with federal authorities for 20 years. Attorney Richard Harris responded that his client was waiting for them to contact him.
"He relied on the government's assurances to him, written and oral," Harrist said.
Justice Department lawyer Raya Jarawan said Ramos-Portillo should have given the government a U.S. address. She said the issue was whether the Board of Immigration Appeals abused its discretion when it denied his appeal, not the foreign address question.
"So we don't have that proper, beautiful case in front of us to decide if this statute is truly ambiguous or allows for...a foreign address," Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod commented.
However, mailing address problems leave room for many immigration cases to fall through the cracks. Another one fell to the Fifth Circuit on the same day.
In that case, Melida Teresa Luna-Garcia lived in a Guatamalan village. She also gave her village address for correspondence from immigration enforcement.
Her attorney, Nadia Dahab, said foreign nationals do not have to give a U.S. address to border patrol or immigration officers. "This statute requires only that she's able to provide an address that she could be contacted and that the government requires written notice," she said.
Even so, it is getting more difficult for immigrants all around to come to America. The latest administration policy limits asylum and gang and domestic violence victims.
By William Vogeler, Esq