SAN FRANCISCO — Immigration rights groups, along with a Berkeley nonprofit organization, held a press conference in San Francisco on Tuesday to discuss grievances against the possible deportation of Daniel Maher.
Maher moved from China to the United States in 1977 at the age of 3 and grew up with his family in Northern California, according to Anoop Prasad, Maher’s legal representative from the Asian Law Caucus. He was the recycling program director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, where he worked on innovations to help keep the environment clean, said Debbie Beyea, the center’s deputy director.
Conference attendees included Maher’s family, his coworkers from the Ecology Center and lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus.
An arrest at age 20 for attempted robbery made Maher a priority for deportation. As a result, after serving seven years in prison, he was held for an additional year in an immigration detention center.
When the Chinese government refused to provide necessary documentation for Maher’s deportation, a judge ordered his release in 2001, Prasad said at the press conference.
In June, however, Maher was handcuffed outside his home and transported to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, office before embarking on a 24-hour trip to a Los Angeles immigration detention center. During the trip, he could not sleep and had no access to food or water, according to Prasad.
According to Beyea, through its forceful removal of a person such as Maher, the ICE detainee program has brought attention to its own flaws.
“He belongs here,” Beyea said at the press conference. “We will continue and increase our efforts in the coming weeks and months until we gain his release.”
Maher’s family members, such as his brother Anthony Maher and cousin Norman McBride, spoke on his behalf at the press conference.
According to Anthony Maher, Daniel Maher has spent the last 15 years turning his life around. He earned his GED, learned how to build computers, taught himself to repair cars and always tries to help others, Anthony Maher said.
“He made a mistake in the past, but he has reformed, and he follows the rules,” McBride said. “He’s not interested in doing anything wrong or being questioned for any wrongdoing.”
Daniel Maher’s experience is similar to the stories of many Chinese immigrants who have been picked up by ICE for deportation in recent raids, according to representatives from the Asian Law Caucus who attended the press conference.
Jenny Zhao, staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus, said she believes raids are occurring because the Chinese government, in the past, had not been willing to take back deportees but recently requested that the United States hand over about 100 Chinese officials living in the United States who are now facing prosecution in China. In return for the cooperation of the United States, she said, China is willing to accept deported citizens.
According to Prasad, “ICE insists it uses discretion with its deportations and places highest priorities on those convicted of felonies to be deported.” But on the other hand, he added, “they never consider mitigating factors such as success, rehabilitation, family ties and benefits to community members.”
Other organizations — such as Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Chinese Progressive Association — have come together to support Maher and other immigrants facing deportation.
Senior staff writer Ariel Hayat contributed to this report.
Contact Kayla Kettmann at [email protected].