Supporters of Israel Resendiz Hernandez, a Norristown resident who faces deportation to Mexico but is seeking asylum here, are calling on immigration officials to release him to his wife and two U.S. citizen daughters while his case proceeds.
About a dozen demonstrators rallied Wednesday in front of the regional headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 16th and Callowhill Streets on what they said was Resendiz's 100th consecutive day in detention.
Among the demonstrators was his wife, Pilar Molina, 29, and their daughter Caitlin, 9, a fourth grader who held a poster on which she had scrawled, "I want my Dad here for Father's Day."
"It doesn't make sense, he passed his 'fear' . . . interview," said his wife, referring to his stated fear of being returned. "He should be allowed to come home."
Asylum officials recently ruled that Resendiz, who illegally entered the country to join his family and who was the subject of an Inquirer story in March, has "a reasonable fear" of persecution if returned to Mexico. He testified that his father was found dead in a ravine last fall, and his brother was shot and wounded by a gang. Resendiz, 34, said he feared a similar fate.
ICE officials contend that he is a flight risk and must remain at the Pike County Prison while his case is pending.
Resendiz has illegally entered the United States several times to reunite with his wife and children. He was arrested in Norristown on Jan. 27.
"You are considered a flight risk, as you have purposely evaded immigration controls at the U.S. border on at least two occasions," field office director Thomas Decker wrote in a May 1 letter to Resendiz.
Resendiz's lawyer, Thomas Griffin, who spoke at the rally, said his client is not going to flee and needs to pursue his case as the only lawful way to remain in the United States.
"ICE knows . . . that he only crosses the border to go to one place," said Griffin. "Norristown, to be with his family."
In an interview, Griffin said he had asked officials about freeing Resendiz and having him monitored electronically at home with an ankle bracelet, but he said they rejected that idea.
In February, Resendiz refused food for 19 days in an effort to throw a spotlight on his case.
He is scheduled for a first hearing before an immigration judge Thursday.