ELKHART — The worrying for Armando Paez is over.
For now, anyway.
The Elkhart man, who’s been fighting to remain in the United States for years, said Monday, July 14, that U.S. immigration officials once again put a hold on looming deportation orders, permitting him and wife Martha to stay put.
It’s not the first time reps from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, have taken action letting the couple remain. And the decision, in response to a meeting last March with ICE officials, is only temporary, like previous determinations in 2012 and 2013. Still, it means Paez, a host here at Antonio’s Italian Ristorante and The Vine, can stay in Elkhart and keep working, at least until next February, when the new hold on deportation expires.
"The decision is all theirs,“ he said, underscoring the powerlessness he feels in the unending fight to stay. ”We can’t do anything.“
Paez, his wife and the couple's three kids came to Elkhart from their native Colombia in 1999 and they've been in Indiana ever since. But they violated terms of their visas, running afoul of U.S. immigration law. Despite their efforts to fix the situation, immigration officials eventually ordered their deportation. The best the elder Paezes have been able to do since then is secure temporary delays, or stays, in the dictate to leave the country.
"The same, we’ll keep praying, hoping. Always the same routine,” said Paez.
The Paezes three children, Ana, Maria and Juan, are in somewhat more secure positions. They had also faced deportation, but later secured permission to remain in the country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, initiative, geared to the children of undocumented immigrants.
’THE SAME OLD, SAME OLD’
The Paezes, accompanied by their lawyer, made their latest plea for permission to stay in the United States at the meeting in Chicago last March, as a previous stay of deportation was set to expire. ICE officials finally responded to their request to hold off on deportation about three weeks ago, Paez said, when he received word he and Martha would be able to remain until next February.
When February rolls around, they’ll have to return to Chicago and make a new request to stay put. Ahead of that, they’ll have to gather up letters of support from friends and acquaintances to present to immigration officials to bolster their case, as with previous bids to stave off deportation.
"It’s the same old, same old,“ said Paul Cataldo, owner of Antonio’s Italian Ristorante and an advocate for the Paezes in their efforts to stay. ”Still wait and see, wait and see ... Nothing concrete has been done yet. Nothing achieved. Nothing changed.“
Paez has followed the on-and-off debate among U.S. leaders over immigration reform, hoping for some sort of change to address the many undocumented immigrants in the country. Thus far, there’s ”no clear light“ that’s emerged and he keeps his focus at a more basic level — trying to prevent deportation.