Trump Immigration Policy Hits Hawai'i

Apr 4, 2017

Tania Venegas (center) and son, Eduard (left) and attorney, Clare Hanusz before entering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The immigration policies of the Trump Administration played out today in Honolulu.  As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, it involves the deportation and removal of a Mexican immigrant.

“We are very nervous; we have 3 kids; this is our oldest one; we have a two little kids.”

Tania Venegas stood by her oldest son, Eduard.  She’s a 33 year-old mother of 3 who moved to Maui in 2006 from Sonora, Mexico.  She’s been in the process of obtaining asylum in the U-S since 2008 because of domestic violence threats.  Immigration Attorney, Clare Hanusz, is representing Venegas at the U-S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office on Ala Moana Boulevard.

“Tania received a very ominous, strongly worded letter telling her to report for deportation today and to bring one bag that’s between one and 50 pounds.”

Immigration clients facing deportation -- like Venegas -- are not entitled to free legal representation as in criminal cases.   Hanusz says Venegas’ previous lawyer did not present a strong case for asylum so she will be requesting a reconsideration.  She says immigration laws are complex and not easily navigated.

“There’s no pathway to citizenship for her.  She entered on a legal visa.  Even though her children are U.S. citizens that does not confer an legal status on her.”

Hanusz believes Venegas’ clean record, not being a flight risk or being a danger to society will be favorable.  Venegas’ son, Eduard, says his siblings don’t understand what’s going on but he’s hopeful.

“I’m 15 years old and a sophomore in high school.  And I’m pursuing a job in mechanics.  I have a younger brother, 8 years old, in the 3rd grade.  He’s a good student.  Get’s good grades.  And I have a younger sister, 5 years old, that just started pre-school.  And they don’t know anything about this.  They don’t know how to handle this situation.”

The Immigration agency granted Venegas a 5-thousand dollar bond  proposal while the appeal and reconsideration motions are decided. Once paid, she will be free to return to Maui.  Older sister, Zuzeth, a U.S. citizen, was rushing to the bank to get a certified check.

“It’s been heartbreaking for so many years;  just wondering.  It’s not knowing what’s gonna happen.  And we’re just like in a limbo.  She’s my only sister and we’re together, so together and it’s really hard, not sure, what might happen.”

Hanusz says she will return with Venegas to appear before the Board of Immigration Appeals.   She says this could be the beginning of the Trump Administration’s policy implementation in Hawai’i.

“You know this is kind of part of the first wave since Trump hasn’t been in office a hundred days yet.  So these orders, these are new so one of the things we are doing as immigration attorneys and advocates is trying to really carefully monitor who’s called in; what the situation is.  And the problem is for people who cannot afford representation are completely on their own.  They go in and we don’t know what happens.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.