A National City family handed their case over to the U.S. Border Patrol Wednesday, asking that a deported chaplain and business owner be let back into the country.
Enrique Cervantes, a father of four who has lived in the South Bay for the past couple decades, was deported by Border Patrol last month.
Now, his family is asking for prosecutorial discretion — a type of legal leniency authorized by President Barack Obama that allows the federal agency to make deportation exceptions in certain cases.
The family hand-delivered their case to Border Patrol headquarters Wednesday afternoon, hoping to grab the attention of the chief agent who decides if Cervantes can legally return to the U.S.
"We’ve done everything in our power to be the good citizens this country wants,” said Marisol Cervantes, Enrique’s wife.
Marisol is a U.S. citizen, as are her four children. But Cervantes moved across the border illegally when he was 11 years old and has not become a U.S. citizen.
Hours after he drove through a Border Patrol checkpoint on April 25, Cervantes was put on a bus to Mexico.
"That day, we just lost all the hope,” said Marisol. “We just feel like we didn't have an opportunity to prove who he was.”
Since then, they have spent their time gathering a phone book-sized case file, filled with reasons Cervantes should qualify for prosecutorial discretion. The issue is a political hot button, allowing for a gray area in deportations as long as the person isn't a threat to national security.
Opponents of the Obama administration policy say any crime, no matter how minor, should make undocumented immigrants ineligible to return.
In a statement, Border Patrol told NBC 7, "[We’re] aware of the case regarding Mr. Cervantes. Mr. Cervantes was considered for prosecutorial discretion. However, his case did not meet Department of Homeland Security guidelines."
At issue is a previous deportation. Cervantes was sent back to Mexico in 1993, when his family admits he had a drug problem leading to several misdemeanors.
But the family now asks the government for grace, hoping the past 22 years count for something.
“I just wanted a chance to prove who he was, and that's what I'm asking from the government right now. Please give him a chance,” Marisol said.
The Cervantes family photo albums show Enrique as a man who is active in his church, who councils drug addicts, and who supports his family through a small business renovating homes.
"Who paid his taxes, and I know a lot of people asked, ‘How, how did he do that?’” said his daughter Mayra. “He had a tax ID number and found a way to make sure every single thing he did reflected on the type of man he is now.”
The family will now wait for a response from Border Patrol, and their attorneys say they won't stop here. If they must, they will take the matter all the way to Washington, D.C.