Man fully exonerated of murder to be deported for drug possession

In February, Antonio C., a 27-year-old professional mover and father of two who is married to a U.S. citizen, was arrested for the murder of two children. He had been framed, as Gwinnett County police acknowledged while dropping all criminal charges a mere two days after his arrest.

Despite being exonerated of the double homicide, Antonio is now scheduled to be deported to Mexico — away from his own wife and children. Why? He pled guilty on May 6 to possession of marijuana, for which he was sentenced to probation. Under a U.S. immigration policy developed as part of the War on Drugs, any non-citizen can be deported if convicted of any drug crime.

The policy applies to all immigrants, legal or illegal — even Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents). It also applies to all drug offenses, even misdemeanor drug possession.

Antonio’s case came to the attention of the press when he was falsely accused of the murders of two children, a one-year-old and one of a pair of three-year-old twins, and the attempted murder of the other twin. He admitted he had been having an affair with their mother, but vehemently denied harming the children.

Police now say that the children’s father stabbed the boys and then himself, attempting to mislead law enforcement by claiming the murders had occurred during an attack. He fingered the alleged assailant as Antonio, but investigators quickly determined that Antonio was completely innocent. The father is now being held without bond, charged with the murders of his children.

Two families broken up: Should an exonerated man be deported for drug possession?

Despite having been exonerated two days after his arrest, Antonio was held for three months in the Gwinnett County jail because of a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as 287(g). The program, which several Georgia counties take part in, allows local law enforcement to flag suspected illegal aliens and hold them until their immigration status can be resolved.

He was also charged with felony possession of marijuana, because there police allegedly found the drug at his home when he was arrested for the murders. He pled guilty to that charge on May 6, and he was sentenced to ten years of probation. He was released from jail on May 17 and scheduled for an immigration hearing.

At that hearing, Antonio asked the judge to allow him to remain in the U.S. so he would not be separated from his wife and two children. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not say whether Antonio was actually found to be in the country illegally at the hearing, only that Gwinnett County had determined that he was. In any case, the immigration judge has ordered him to be deported within 60 days.

Two families will now be broken up — one by tragedy, and one by law. It’s a steep price to pay for an affair.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Man framed in Gwinnett child killings to be deported,” Andria Simmons, June 1, 2011