Dying Man Who Lived Most Of His Life In The U.S. Will Likely Die In Mexico

Ramon Islas (center) with his family. CREDIT: KATHY GONZALEZ
Ramon Islas (center) with his family. CREDIT: KATHY GONZALEZ

Ramon Islas Gastelum is dying from Stage IV widespread metastatic melanoma. The new drug and medical experts he needs to prolong his life are only available in the United States, his doctors wrote in letters to immigration officials. Deported last month to Mexico, Islas Gastelum presented himself at a Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona on Wednesday, requesting permission to return to the United States on a special medical parole visa. But because of his past infractions with the law, his request was denied, even though he had a valid humanitarian parole visa at the time of his deportation.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Mr. Islas into custody Dec. 10, 2014, and removed him to Mexico later that day,” a statement provided by ICE to ThinkProgress reads. “Background checks reveal Mr. Islas has a lengthy criminal history, including a felony conviction in 2005 for aggravated assault, which resulted in a 1 ½ year prison term. Additionally, Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Mr. Islas has been arrested and deported five times over the last decade.”  The statement concluded, “ICE continues to focus its immigration enforcement efforts on individuals who pose a potential threat to national security, public safety and border security, including foreign nationals with felony criminal histories.”

Ramon Islas (left) and his grandson Adrian. CREDIT: Kathy Gonzalez
Ramon Islas (left) and his grandson Adrian. CREDIT: Kathy Gonzalez

Islas Gastelum will likely now die in Mexico, a place that he hasn’t considered home since he was brought across the border as a baby in 1969.

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Arizona court records verify Islas Gastelum’s long history of law enforcement contacts dating back to 1988, including: possession of a controlled substance, two domestic violence convictions, a DUI conviction, three assault convictions, burglary, and five illegal border reentries.

Islas Gastelum’s family insisted that his deportation is a consequence of Obama’s latest executive action, which seeks to target “felons, not families,” or certain undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds. Just ten months before Obama’s announcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted an one-year medical parole valid through January 20, 2015. TransNational Migrant Alliance spokesperson Mohammad Abdollahi, whose organization has been helping with the case, told ThinkProgress that Islas Gastelum’s deportation in December 2014 occurred when an immigration lawyer advised him to go to the local Phoenix ICE office to reapply for another humanitarian parole visa after he lost his wallet. According to Islas Gastelum, officials told him, “because of Obama’s announcement, you’re now a priority for deportation.”

Islas Gastelum spent two days at the Eloy Detention Center, then was deported ten days before Christmas. ICE was unable to comment by the post’s publication as to why the agency issued a humanitarian parole visa in the first place.

Medical parole, a form of humanitarian parole, is only issued to individuals who likely won’t stay in the United States past their operation or treatment plans. They must be able to provide an explanation from a medical doctor stating the diagnosis and prognosis of their illness; information on the reasons why they can’t obtain treatment in their home countries; the estimated cost of the treatment and how the treatment will be paid for; and how individuals will pay to return their countries.

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ICE does not have public data on the number of deported individuals who were granted medical parole. But the organization has issued humanitarian parole for deported individuals in the past. Humanitarian parole is used sparingly for individuals who have urgent humanitarian reasons for staying in the United States or if an emergency situation, like allowing Haitian orphans to stay in the United States after the devastating earthquake of 2010, arises. In 2012, a deported immigrant won humanitarian parole to enter the United States “so that he can attend a court hearing regarding on [sic] his parental rights and the custody of his three young children,” Colorlines reported at the time. Between 2013 and 2014, the hardliner immigration activist groups The National Immigration Youth Alliance and Dream Activist came under harsh criticism for gathering deported immigrants at the Otay Port of Entry in San Diego, CA to ask immigration authorities to allow them to stay in the country either through a humanitarian parole or an asylum petition. Many were deported, but others were allowed to stay in the country on parole pending their asylum hearings.

Since his deportation, Islas Gastelum has missed at least two biweekly chemotheraphy treatment appointments. He will again attempt to present himself at the Nogales port of entry two days before his next medical appointment at the University of Arizona. The contents of an online petition signed by his wife and shared by TransNational Migrant Alliance indicates that Islas Gastelum is a man who “deeply regrets his past and is a loving, considerate, given person,” and that the treatment is simply to “prolong his life” so that he can “live the remainder of his life with his family… his children, grandchildren and myself need him here with us so we can take care of him and prepare for what is to come.”