Six undocumented immigrants who had served six months in federal prison on immigration charges were released yesterday. They were released into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcements officers after posting immigration bonds in Charlotte. The bond amounts ranged from $5,000—$6,000.
The men—Rafael Garcia-Tiscareno, Jose Guadalupe Rodriguez, Lucio Huerta-Ponce, Luis Humberto Huerta-Ponce, Luis Raul Huerta-Ponce, Juan Manuel Martinez, Rodriguez, Jorge Alberto Ruiz-Ponce—were employees of Durham-based J&A Framers and had been arrested during several workplace raids in the Triangle last November.
A seventh man, Victorino Gutierrez-Licona, is scheduled to appear at a bond hearing next month; he received a seven-month sentence. Two of the former employees were not eligible for an immigration bond.
All of the men pled guilty in March to entering the United States illegally.
In January, eight other employees pled guilty to misdemeanor immigration charges. They served 30 days in jail and were later released on immigration bonds.
“What happened to these men and their families is really sad, and yet another example of how the Obama administration is saying one thing about what their immigration policy is and doing the opposite,” said Marty Rosenbluth, executive director of the N.C. Immigrant Rights Project. “We hear over and over ICE officials saying that they are doing work place raids anymore. These guys were caught up in an investigation targeted at their employer. But instead of offering them the option of just returning voluntarily, or even just putting them into deportation proceedings, Obama’s Justice Department charged them with felony re-entry and they ended up in jail for six months. The only crime they committed was trying to feed their families”
Rosenbluth argued for the former workers' immigration bonds. He said that the next step is to get the men hearings in immigration court where they will try to show that they have the right to stay in the United States.
The men's employers, J&A Framing owners Jose Alfredo Lopez Ponce and Juan Antonio Lopez Ponce, were indicted Dec. 15 on charges including smuggling and harboring and recruiting immigrants to work.
On April 6, the men, who are brothers, pled guilty to illegal alien harboring and conspiracy; they are awaiting sentencing by Chief United States District Court Judge Louise Flanagan in New Bern. Each man could receive a maximum of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and at $500,000 in fines.