'This was a difficult day,' immigration judge says as he rules to deport Minnesota man
As the judge read his verdict, the sounds of sobbing grew louder and louder in the small federal courtroom. With tears streaming down her face, Nancy Estrada exchanged a look of disbelief with her husband, Julio Estrada Escobar, as they learned that he is being deported back to his home country of Guatemala.
At the end of the 45-minute verdict read by Immigration Judge Ryan Wood on Wednesday, Dec. 13, he said, "This was a difficult day and I made the best decision I could. I wish you the best."
Escobar, who lives in Evansville with his wife and two children, is an illegal immigrant who was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July after he was pulled over in Otter Tail County.
The couple has lived in Evansville since 2013. Their lawyer, Jason Nielson, a partner at Igbanugo Partners, an international law firm in the Twin Cities, was shocked at the judge's ruling and just shook his head in disbelief when questioned after the trial.
"Obviously, it is disappointing," Nielson said. "That was a big surprise. I didn't expect that."
After he read his verdict, Wood said appeals are due by Jan. 12.
Escobar was trying to prove that his life would be in danger if sent back to Guatemala. He fled the country in 2001, after he says family members were killed over debts owed to a loan shark.
Nielson said he will be appealing the decision, which he said isn't final for the next 30 days, and that Escobar cannot be deported during that time.
Nielson said the appeal process can take anywhere from three to four months. During that time, Escobar will remain in custody at the Carver County Jail in Chaska. Unless, Nielson said, he is released after a custody review, which is slated for sometime in January.
"We will have to wait and see what happens" said Nielson.
While waiting for Escobar to be removed from the Bloomington courtroom, one of the 18 family and friends who attended the hearing asked the bailiff if Julio and Nancy could at least give each other a hug before Escobar was taken away. The bailiff said, "I'm sorry, there is no physical contact. But they can talk."
Estrada, obviously distraught and in tears, just kept telling her husband she was sorry.
Escobar was then taken back into custody and everyone left the courtroom in silence with their heads hanging down.
Tim Anderson, Escobar's employer who testified at the hearing, said after the hearing that the decision was not what he expected.
"Although it's not shocking with how the system works now," he said.
Anderson testified that Escobar was one of the finest human beings he'd ever met. He called him honest, hard working and "a pleasure to have around."
Anderson told the judge that when he asked his own 3-year-old son who his family members were, the boy not only lists his parents and older brother, he always includes Escobar as one of his family members.
Terry Aasness, who also is from Evansville and knows Julio and Nancy and their family, also took the stand in support of Escobar.
He told the judge that when he sees Estrada, was born and raised in the U.S., he can tell she is frustrated and hurting. He said the couple has a "serious commitment" to one another and that more people should be like them.
He also spoke highly of Escobar and said he and many others in the community of Evansville support him.
"He is among those people you like," he told the judge.
After his testimony in support of Escobar, Aasness shared his thoughts about immigration with the judge, stating, "I'm not here to get in trouble, but I have a lot of frustrations with the immigration system."
The judge let him speak his peace and then thanked Aasness and said, "I do appreciate your time."