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  1. #1
    Senior Member FedUpinFarmersBranch's Avatar
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    May 2008

    IA-Immigration fugitive unit nets Yanni's restaurant owner

    Immigration fugitive unit nets Yanni's restaurant owner
    By LEE ROOD • • May 2, 2009

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    The two men sat down April 1 for a leisurely lunch at Yanni's, a popular Ankeny restaurant, left a $12 tip and then arrested the owner, Riggoberto Ochoa.

    They were immigration agents, collecting on a 22-year-old federal deportation order mandating Ochoa be sent back to his native Ecuador.

    Slated to be shipped out soon from Omaha, the 38-year-old known to many locally as "Rigo" will leave behind an extended family, three children and a wife who are all worried sick. Friends, lawyers, even the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce, are trying - likely in vain, his lawyer says - to help.

    "We are very, very upset," said his brother Oswaldo Ochoa, who is now managing both Yanni's Grill & Vineyard locations, in Ankeny and West Des Moines. "The thing is, he came here when he was 16. We're all here. If they send him back to Ecuador, he knows nobody there."

    Ochoa's plight is playing out more often in Iowa since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened a fugitive unit in Des Moines late last year. The unit became fully operational in February, a fact that is now apparent to immigrants, their families and local lawyers.

    Different from the massive workplace immigration raids carried out by ICE in Marshalltown and Postville, the arrests being made under an expanded National Fugitive Operations Program are supposed to target fugitives who already have been ordered to leave the country. The first priority: dangerous people and criminals.

    "But if anyone has been ordered to be deported by a federal immigration judge, we're obligated to carry out the order," said Tim Counts, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    For people like Ochoa, the federal government's more aggressive pursuit means an abrupt end to decades of living under the radar in the United States.

    In 1988, about two years after he entered the United States illegally, Ochoa was arrested and released from jail in Los Angeles. At the time, his two brothers and sister were already living in New York City. Ochoa went to New York, paid about $1,500 in fines, and never returned to court for a hearing.

    All the Ochoa siblings immigrated to the United States after their father died in their hometown of Azogues, an impoverished village in northern Ecuador. The local economy was in bad shape, the family had few options, and the children's widowed mother was depressed.

    Not long after Ochoa's arrival in New York, the family's apartment burned down - a crisis they say distracted them from Riggoberto's immigration troubles. Oswaldo Ochoa said the family made a critical mistake after his brother was caught that seemed unimportant at the time. Now it promises to haunt them for the rest of their lives.

    Under President Ronald Reagan, there were few penalties for Ochoa's failure to show up in court after his arrest. But over the years, Ochoa made three attempts to gain legal status and was denied each time, according to his brother and lawyer.

    Meanwhile, Oswaldo Ochoa, the other siblings and their mother all gained U.S. citizenship.

    ICE's Counts said this week that there was little he could say about Riggoberto Ochoa's case, given federal privacy laws. He also would not discuss scenarios under which longtime fugitives are granted legal status.

    According to ICE, fugitive teams are supposed to give top priority to cases involving aliens who "pose a threat to national security and community safety, including members of transnational street gangs, child sex offenders, and aliens with prior convictions for violent crimes."

    Oswaldo Ochoa said his brother has paid taxes since they opened the restaurants that serve Greek and Italian fare. Court records support his assertion that Riggoberto Ochoa has not been in trouble with the law, not even for a parking ticket.

    "He's a hardworking guy, and works 13- and 14-hour days," he said.

    As teens, Oswaldo and Riggoberto Ochoa both got their starts in restaurants. Oswaldo wound up in New York's Little Italy, becoming head chef at Angelo's, a popular Italian restaurant. Riggoberto, he said, had a similar experience working for Greeks.

    The siblings moved to Des Moines to work at Tursi's Latin King on Des Moines' east side. They were there for five years until they opened their own family business.

    Riggoberto Ochoa is now a standard "bag and baggage" case in the eyes of immigration officials, according to his attorney, Michael Said of Des Moines. That's the phrase used for illegal immigrants arrested on outstanding deportation orders and immediately shipped back home.

    "It's very, very rare for the government to reopen one of these cases," the immigration lawyer said. "What bothers me most about this case is that the order is so old. Back then, if you didn't show up to a hearing, there was no real penalty. Now, if you don't go to one, you are banned for 10 years for any adjustment of status. It's quite severe."

    The lawyer said Ochoa could be deported from Omaha at any time.

    In the meantime, Said is trying to get immigration officials to reopen Ochoa's case - a long shot, but one he said he must try.

    The Ankeny Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter praising Riggoberto Ochoa's contributions to the community, while being careful not to condone illegal immigration. Other people, like the priest at his Des Moines parish, also have written letters of support.

    Said said his client's case is yet another example of why Congress' failure to act on immigration reform is harming the country.

    "This is crazy. People in Congress write these laws and then think when you deport a mother, or a father whose spouse and children are in the U.S. they will be able to live without seeing their children grow or their wife grow old," he said. "I always want to ask them, 'What were you smoking and how much and did you inhale?' It's not based in reality.

    "If he's caught coming back in, it's a lifetime ban. Multiply this by a million people, and this is the problem we are faced with now." ... 0337/1001/
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  2. #2
    Senior Member legalatina's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    22 years as a fugitive and owns two restaurants....he can sell the businesses, and live like a fat little Incan king with his wife and kids in Azogues, Ecuador. Don't give in to the sob story.....if anything this shows how little regard these aliens have for our legal system and especially our immigration system...if he or his family had cared that much about becoming legal citizens they would never have just brushed off any proceedings with ICE. I hope that the state of Iowa audits the restaurants..and proceeds to collect any unpaid business taxes, unreported employee reveneue, etc. on behalf of Iowan taxpayers and that the fed does the same. I hope ICE looks at the immigration status of all the "employees" of the restaurants and arrests all the illegals that this guy probably hired.

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