An undocumented immigrant being treated for AIDS and lymphoma is begging a federal judge to halt his deportation back to Honduras, where he will likely die without adequate medical treatment.
The 40-year-old man was deported in 2003 after pleading no contest to a charge of fourth-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct in Michigan state court. He now claims he did not know he was pleading guilty and therefore making himself eligible for deportation because he did not have a Spanish interpreter with him. Once in Honduras, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He re-entered the U.S. illegally, where he was diagnosed with AIDS and lymphoma, which is now in remission. His court papers claim it will return if his treatments stop.
Besides the lack of medical care available in Honduras, the immigrant told the judge he faces violence and discrimination, as a gay man. Sending him back, his lawyers argue, would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The Honduran man’s reentry was discovered during an arrest in New York last year. He pleaded guilty to illegal reentry in February, and was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Eastern District Judge Jack Weinstein temporarily stayed his sentence in June because deportation “is likely to result in severe physical injury and death.”
But he must still combat the original state conviction in order to avoid deportation. He is now asking to serve his supervised release in a Bureau of Prisons detention center in order to keep up his medical treatments while fighting the Michigan conviction.
This predicament underscores the gray areas within the Obama administration’s policy to focus mainly on deporting immigrants with criminal records. Setting aside the fact that the actual deportation numbers seem to contradict this promise, the vast majority of criminal deportees were sentenced for minor offenses. Others, like in this case, are not provided with legal interpreters or adequate representation in court. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010, seven years after the Honduran immigrant was deported, that lawyers must tell their clients they could be deported if they plead guilty. However, that ruling does not allow this man and others in his situation to retroactively change their pleas.