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Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, a 35-year old construction worker and father of three, crossed the U.S-Mexican border without authorization in 2012 to flee his gang-ridden neighborhood in Mexico City and be with his wife, Alma, and their three small children in California. The family then made their way to Pittsburgh to join Martín’s brother and mother, thinking it would be a great place to work and raise their young family.

In the short time that they’ve lived in Pittsburgh, Martín and Alma have become indispensable activists in Pittsburgh’s growing Latino community. They are active in two local churches – St. Catherine of Siena Church in Beechview and East Liberty Presbyterian Church – and in their two daughters’ school, Arsenal Elementary School in Lawrenceville.

Martín is also an active member of the Latino Parents Council, a project of the Latino Family Center. He is also involved with the A+ Schools Community Alliance for Public Education, and is a facilitator, along with Alma, for the recently completed Latino Needs Assessment Project, a project of the Latino Family Center and the Casa San José, to examine the challenges confronting Latino families in Allegheny County.

On May 1, Martín Esquivel-Hernandez and his family marched in an immigrants’ rights rally from Beechview to Brookline. He and his young daughters held a sign that read: “Not one more deportation.”

The next morning, at 6 a.m., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers took Esquivel-Hernandez from his Pittsburgh home. Now, the next deportation could be his.

Martín has been shuttled to various detention centers (forcibly traveling over 600 miles) before landing in a for-profit, private prison in Youngstown, Ohio, where he currently awaits a federal trial, a possible prison sentence, and then deportation.

[The] lack of a license may be the impetus of Esquivel-Hernandez’s ordeal. He was cited twice in the last four months for driving without a valid license, once by Castle Shannon Police and once by Mount Lebanon Police. (He does have a Mexican driver’s license.)

Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented residents to receive drivers’ license:  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington.  There is currently a bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (HB 211)  to make Pennsylvania the 14th state.

Martín’s alleged crime is not that he is in the U.S. without authorization (being undocumented is not a crime). Rather, ICE Field Office Director, Rebecca Adducci, has decided to continue criminally prosecute Martín for “re-entry after deportation,” for having repeatedly tried to cross the U.S.-Mexican border to be with his wife and children.

Castle Shannon police towed his minivan on April 30, two days before he was detained by ICE. Castle Shannon Police Chief Ken Truver says there was “nothing in the police report that reflects we had anything to do with an ICE referral.” He adds that if his officers are not given reason, they don’t usually ask about residency status.

Mount Lebanon police cited Esquivel-Hernandez on March 26 for driving without a valid license and without insurance. He paid his fine on April 21, and according to his U.S. District Court case, he was identified as undocumented on April 25. Mount Lebanon police have not returned multiple calls requesting comment about its communication policy with ICE.

Martín does not belong in a prison cell. He should be back with his family and the community that loves and needs him the most.


Quotes were taken from Ryan Deto’s Pittsburgh City Paper coverage on Martin’s case, which can be found here.