AURORA | A lawyer for a California man sitting in an Aurora immigration detention facility — despite being arrested in California a short drive from the border — says federal officials shipped him here to make it easier to deport him.
In June, federal immigration authorities arrested Paulino Hernandez-Hernandez in San Diego County, California, just miles from his longtime southern California home and from the border with Mexico.
But a short time later — and despite objections from his California-based lawyer — federal officials shipped Hernandez-Hernandez from San Diego to Aurora, where he is being held now in the GEO Group immigration detention facility near East 30th Avenue and Peoria Street.
“They moved him from three miles from the border to a thousand miles from the border,” said Murray Hilts, Hernandez-Hernandez’s lawyer in San Diego.
And, Hilts says, because of a complex legal issue, the move could make it easier for federal authorities to deport Hernandez-Hernandez.
Hernandez-Hernandez was convicted of methamphetamine possession in California in 2003 but had the conviction expunged in 2015, according to court records. If Hernandez-Hernandez’s immigration case is heard in California, which is part of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that case can’t be held against him because of that court’s prior ruling on expunged cases, Hilts said.
But the Ninth Circuit’s ruling doesn’t apply in other circuits, including the Tenth, which covers Colorado.
Hilts said the federal government is “forum shopping,” meaning they transferred Hernandez-Hernandez just so they could get him in a court where that 2003 conviction could be used against him.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency moved Hernandez-Hernandez from a California detention facility to Aurora because of space issues.
“In order to accommodate various operational demands, ICE routinely transfers detainees within its detention network based on available resources and the needs of the agency,” ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said in an email.
A judge in September sided with Hilts and said Hernandez-Hernandez should be moved back to California, but ICE officials have not moved him.
Rusnok said ICE asked the judge to reconsider their ruling late last month.
“An alien need not be detained in the same location as the venue of his or her removal proceedings. However, ICE will review Hernandez-Hernandez’s detention location upon a decision on the venue of proceeding by the immigration judge,” he said.