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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    Immigration agents arrest criminal alien / community activist lauded by the city

    Immigration agents arrest Houston father and community activist lauded by the city after he invited ICE to a town hall

    Lomi Kriel Sep. 6, 2019 Updated: Sep. 6, 2019 7:57 p.m.

    1of6 Tears run down Roland Gramajo Jr.'s cheek while his sister, Katherine Gramajo, 18, is talking about their father, Roland Gramajo, who is being detained at a detention facility in Conroe, during a press conference on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Houston. The 40-year-old was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement while going to work Photo: Yi-Chin Lee, Staff / Staff photographer

    Roland Gramajo organized a community town hall in Sharpstown last month to allay residents’ fears after a tense few weeks this summer when President Donald Trump’s promises of widespread raids alarmed immigrants and their families across the nation.

    The 40-year-old father of five American children has long been a devoted community activist, advocating particularly on behalf of his Guatemalan countrymen. In 2018, Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Gramajo’s birthday of May 17 as the advocate’s official day in the city for being a “true leader with an exceptional drive to improve the quality of life” in Houston.

    Gramajo invited representatives with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to attend the Aug. 18 community event, which also featured U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat.

    The agency declined.

    At the event, Garcia and others noticed three white men who acted suspiciously, taking videos and photographs of the mostly Hispanic crowd.

    Three weeks later, on Sept. 5, Gramajo was driving to work when immigration agents stopped him and took him into custody. The agency said in a statement that Gramajo had been deported to Guatemala in 2004 and had returned, which is a felony. It reinstated his old deportation order.

    Activists and community leaders who know Gramajo said they find it odd how he suddenly landed on the agency’s radar after 15 years of living here illegally following that deportation. They said his arrest is the latest instance of the Trump administration deporting longtime immigrants with deep American roots, rather than focusing on serious criminals and violent offenders.

    Shortly after taking office, Trump declared everyone here illegally at risk of deportation, undoing the more selective enforcement approach of President Barack Obama’s second term. The government at its peak in 2012 only had the capacity to deport 400,000 immigrants a year, and half of those were apprehended by the border, making them easier to quickly send home.

    Under Trump, those priorities changed.

    While supporters praised the president for unshackling immigration agents, critics said they increasingly picked up “low-hanging fruit” such as Jose Escobar, a Houston father who for years checked in annually with immigration officials until they deported him in March 2017. The government allowed him to return to his family in Houston this summer.

    “ICE is going after community leaders, people helping people, instead of human traffickers, drug dealers, really serious criminals,” said Gramajo’s lawyer, Raed Gonzalez.

    Gramajo first came to Houston with his mother from Nuevo San Carlos, a small municipality near Guatemala’s Pacific coast in 1994. He attended Houston ISD’s Lee High School — now renamed Margaret Long Wisdom High School — near Bellaire, where he met Magaly Quicano, a legal permanent resident originally from Peru. They had history class together and soon began dating.

    One day, she said Gramajo and his friends decided to play a practical joke on a friend. During lunch, they took his car for a ride. Fearing it had been stolen, the teenager reported it to Houston Independent School District police.

    When the boys returned, and explained the incident, the friend wanted to drop the charges. But school district police charged Gramajo with burglary of a vehicle — a class A misdemeanor — and he was sentenced to 60 days in jail, although he only served a few weeks in detention.

    The infraction flagged him for immigration officials, and, in 1999, an immigration judge ordered him deported. In March 2001 the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals denied his appeal. Federal agents did not remove him until 2004, after Quicano said he was stopped for a minor traffic violation. He has no other criminal record.

    By then, the couple had two young children.
    “He couldn’t leave us here alone,” she said.

    For months after he was gone, his 3-year-old daughter Katherine ran to the door whenever someone knocked, hoping it was her father.

    “My mom said I was always crying,” the now 18-year-old college student recalled. “She said it hit me pretty hard.”

    A few months later, Gramajo returned.

    Border Patrol agents did not apprehend him when he crossed the border illegally, and, unnoticed, he quietly settled back into life in Houston. He opened a business on Bissonnet Street, where he worked as a notary, paralegal, and all-round community advocate.

    He plastered his office with Spanish-language newspaper profiles of him and awards from community groups. A Guatemalan flag hangs close to a Houston Dynamo jersey on the wall.

    His wife said he often worked for Houston lawyer Alex Udorah and was at the downtown courthouse helping him this week. Udorah did not return a message left at his office.

    Gramajo is beloved in his community, from running an annual bicycle give-away at Killough Middle School in Alief, where he lived, to being active in Sharpstown, where his office is located and where he established close ties with the Guatemalan community.

    He headed the Guatemalan Organizational Center, an advocacy group, and every year helped organize the Fiestas Patrias parade downtown commemorating the Sept. 16 Mexican Independence Day.
    “He’s always the first to help anyone with anything,” said Veronica Medellin, 65, one of many supporters who packed a press conference at Gramajo’s office Thursday announcing his deportation.

    Last May, District F Council Member Steve Le asked the mayor to name May 17 in honor of Gramajo. The proclamation praised him for being an “extremely positive role model,” including working with the city to improve the Alief and Sharpstown areas.

    “He spends countless hours working on community projects motivating the community through scholarships,” it said.

    “His selfless volunteer efforts inspire the community to become future humble, honest and protective leaders of this great city.”

    Nelvin Adriatico, a Filipino immigrant running for term-limited Councilman Mike Laster’s District J seat, said he enlisted Gramajo to help him on Latino outreach for his campaign.

    He said they worked together on fundraisers for victims of Hurricane Harvey and last December, after a deadly blaze left 60 families homeless on South Gessner Road, Gramajo was the first Adriatico called. He asked him to pick up furniture for displaced families.

    “Roland was the first person that came with his truck,” Adriatico said. “He did that with no complaints, no questions asked. That’s the type of person Roland is.”

    Adriatico asked Gramajo to organize the community forum to calm immigrant families terrified after this summer’s highly publicized raids.

    Gramajo personally emailed immigration officials to invite them, but they declined.
    During the town hall last month, Garcia, the congresswoman, told Cesar Espinosa, executive director of the advocacy group FIEL Houston, about the three suspicious-looking men. She asked a staffer to inquire into the situation.

    The men said they were looking at the architecture of the room and eventually left, Garcia’s spokesman Robert Julien said.

    “We can’t speculate as to who they were or what they were doing,” he said.

    ICE officials said none of its agents attended in any official capacity.

    Gramajo’s wife said her husband recently told her someone had threatened to call immigration officials about his status, although she did not know details.

    “We believe in this case, particularly, that he was targeted by immigration and he was being followed,” Espinosa told reporters at the Thursday press conference.

    Gramajo is now in a federal detention facility in Conroe and faces not only immediate deportation, but a 20-year bar from returning to the United States. He will only be able to petition the U.S. government to waive that bar after spending 10 years outside of the country.

    His lawyer, Gonzalez, is asking the government to grant Gramajo a stay of deportation for humanitarian reasons or to release him on a status known as parole.

    “He’s not a risk to anybody,” the lawyer said. “This guy only has a very minor offense from when he was a kid. Exceptions have to be made, especially when so many U.S. citizens are involved. We’re talking about five kids.”

    Gramajo’s wife does not know how the family will survive. He was the breadwinner, and for now the family has launched a GoFundMe account.

    “I’m in shock,” she said. “What am I going to do?”

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    "The 40-year-old father of five American children"


    How much did THAT cost the U.S. taxpayers?

    The whole family is FREE to live and go join their illegal alien father.

    He can take his Guatemalan Flag and go set up shop back home!!!

    Go organize a community forum and be an activist on your own soil.



  3. #3
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    Illegal Immigrant Invites ICE To Town Hall. Is Shocked To Find He’s Being Deported

    JAZZ SHAW Posted at 6:31 pm on September 10, 2019

    This is one of those heartwarming stories that only comes along once in a while and is too good to not share. It takes place in Houston, Texas and features local businessman Roland Gramajo. The father of five has been operating his own business in the city for the past fifteen years, also serving as a vocal activist in support of the Guatemalan community, providing help with translations and locating legal services where required.

    Recently, Mr. Gramajo sought to open the lines of communication on immigration matters further by hosting a town hall. He invited members of the community, elected officials and even representatives of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to share their stories and work on finding solutions. Shortly after the town hall took place, however, Mr. Gramajo received an unpleasant surprise. (NY Times, emphasis added)

    In August, Roland Gramajo, a Houston businessman and celebrated advocate in the local Guatemalan community, helped organize a town-hall meeting to quell fears about recent federal immigration raids.

    He invited community activists from across the country. He also invited members of Congress. He even invited officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to talk about what rights people had and didn’t have if they were confronted by the authorities.

    But three weeks after the meeting, it is Mr. Gramajo who faces deportation. He was arrested near his home last Thursday, a move that has stunned his family and rekindled concerns that the Trump administration is targeting advocates as part of its crackdown on illegal immigration.

    If you click through to the Times article, you’ll see that I wasn’t trying to mislead you about this story. That’s how they told it. In fact, you have to work your way down several paragraphs before finally locating the following biographical information. “Mr. Gramajo had been staying in the country illegally — raising his five children, running a business in Houston and helping fellow immigrants with translations — without contact from ICE for about 15 years.”

    The crux of the Times coverage focuses on suspicions that ICE is “targeting activists” who are “helping” (illegal) immigrants. But let’s face the facts here. Dude…you’re in the country illegally and have been breaking the law by operating a business for a decade and a half. And then you decided to throw a big shindig and you invited the office of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

    It’s true that ICE doesn’t put a high priority on people without serious criminal records, but when you just throw it in their face like that you can’t expect them to ignore the law. Were you expecting a merit badge or something?

    This is one of those stories like the ones you read in the local police blotter about the criminal who decides to rob the diner by sliding down the grill’s exhaust vent in the middle of the night, only to get caught in the grease trap and has to be rescued by the cops. Maybe you expect me to feel bad about laughing, but… sorry, not sorry. This was just hilarious.

    I’ll tell you what it reminds me of even more, however, and this one was a more serious story. Way back in 2014, you may recall that an illegal immigrant named Jose Antonio Vargas was being celebrated by people on the left and even working as a journalist at various outlets. He was published in major news outlets and showed up at all sorts of newsworthy events. He was literally just daring ICE to pick him up.

    When he announced that he was reporting live from a border town in Texas about immigration issues, I’d had enough. I published a column with the rather unsubtle title of, “ICE has the chance to catch Jose Antonio Vargas RIGHT NOW.” I included a picture of him. I quoted his own comments about being an illegal alien. I gave the location where he was staying. Hell, I even included a link to Google Maps with a set of driving instructions from the closest ICE office to where he was staying.

    Now, I’m not saying ICE agents sit around all day reading my columns at Hot Air looking for tips. I’m sure they don’t. But however the story reached their ears, Vargas was arrested the next day while attempting to drive out of the area. And after a long period of legal wrangling, he was indeed deported from the country. As far as I was concerned it was a story with a happy ending.

    Who knows? Perhaps Roland Gramajo can be the Jose Antonio Vargas of the next generation.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    "Vargas was arrested the next day while attempting to drive out of the area. And after a long period of legal wrangling, he was indeed deported from the country."

    I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but I can find no info on
    Jose Antonio Vargas ever being deported.

    If anyone can find proof that Vargas was deported please post it here.

    Latest info I can locate:

    Author Jose Antonio Vargas On Work, Life Without Legal Status...

    Mar 5, 2019

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  5. #5
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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