see blog post from August 27, 2007: "ICE Still Trying to Deport Parents of Houston Soldier Killed in Iraq in 2004" from August 27, 2007
Nov. 15, 2007, 12:07AMhttp://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5303236.html
Dead soldier's dad gets reprieve in immigration case
Move to deport him is put on hold while House looks at bill
By SUSAN CARROLL
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
U.S. immigration officials have granted the father of a U.S.-born soldier killed in Iraq a reprieve from deportation while Congress considers a private bill that would give him a green card.
Enrique Soriano, an illegal immigrant and the father of Pfc. Armando Soriano, was facing deportation from Houston until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials recently decided to grant him "deferred action," which will allow him to live and work legally in the U.S. for one year, said Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, a spokeswoman for USCIS.
Officials with the agency formally notified Soriano's attorney, Isaias Torres, of the reprieve by fax on Wednesday. It is effective for one year from the date of its request by the USCIS district director in Houston, meaning it will expire Sept. 10, 2008.
"It's a step forward, but it's not a long-term solution," Torres said. "At least he's not under the threat of being detained and removed anymore."
Enrique has lived with the fear that immigration agents would appear any day at his front door, decorated with a faded yellow ribbon in remembrance of his son. On Wednesday, the 47-year-old Pasadena resident said his worries have been eased.
"I can breathe a little now," Enrique said. "It gives me hope that my case is progressing."
The Soriano story has drawn widespread attention since the Houston Chronicle first reported on it in August. The family's plight highlighted the complicated issue of service members whose family members are illegal immigrants.
U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, has introduced a private bill that would grant Enrique and Armando's younger sister, Areli, legal permanent resident status. The bill, HR 3772, remains in committee. Jesse Christopherson, spokesman for Green, said they are optimistic about the bill's chances.
A private bill provides benefits to specified individuals. Immigration is one of the most common subjects of such legislation. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican in East Texas, has a private bill pending to stop the deportation of an Albanian immigrant who fears his life could be in danger if he's deported.
The House Judiciary Committee has approved a handful of private bills in recent months.
Wife granted green card
Armando was killed in Iraq in February 2004 when a military vehicle he was riding in rolled off a road, according to the Army's account of his death. The South Houston High School graduate was 20 years old. He was buried with military honors and awarded the Bronze Star posthumously.
After his death, the Soriano family benefited from an unofficial policy that gives the immediate relatives of service members who die in war the chance to become legal residents, even if they came to the U.S. illegally.
Armando's mother, Cleotilde, was approved for lawful permanent resident status. But Enrique's petition for a green card was denied.
In 1999, Enrique was formally deported after falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen, but he sneaked back across the Rio Grande to rejoin his family in Houston. Immigration officials apparently didn't know he was back in the U.S. until his green card application was filed.
His application apparently alerted U.S. immigration officials that he was in the country illegally. He was facing deportation until the recent USCIS decision to grant "deferred action."
This distinction is granted at the district and regional level of USCIS, and does not offer a chance at a green card. It does, however, allow recipients to work legally in the U.S. — at least temporarily.
Enrique spends his days working in construction. Because he was tied up with work, he couldn't visit his son's grave on Veterans Day.
So he stopped by the cemetery on Wednesday afternoon before he heard about his case and wiped down Armando's marble headstone. About two hours later, Torres called to tell him that he didn't have to leave his family any time soon.