U.S. Marine combat veteran Jose Segovia Benitez was deported Tuesday night to El Salvador to the surprise of his lawyers who were told they had more time to fight for him.
"They snuck him out in the middle of the night," said Texas attorney Tom Sanchez, who recently joined efforts to help keep the Long Beach resident from being deported.
Roy Petty, a Dallas-based attorney, traveled to Phoenix to have Segovia sign documents on Wednesday to reopen his case in court.
Instead, the lawyer learned that his client was deported sometime from late Tuesday to early Wednesday.
"Last night, Jose called his mom and he still had not been told that he was to be deported today," Petty wrote in a Wednesday e-mail. "We've asked (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) why the surprise deportation."
Segovia, who served time for several felony convictions, was scheduled to be deported on Oct. 16 but won a last-minute reprieve thanks to the involvement of Texas attorneys. After traveling from the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County to Arizona, he was pulled off a plane in Arizona. Attorneys were told it was a five-day reprieve. Earlier this week, Petty said that ICE officials indicated they had more time to file court documents on his behalf.
Meanwhile, a request for a pardon was filed with California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Segovia arrived in the United States when he was three years old from El Salvador, a country he hasn't been back to since. He grew up in Long Beach and joined the U.S. Marines in 1999, right after graduating from Poly High School.
His sister, Elizabeth Garcia, earlier this year described his passion for the Marines: "He was all about 'Semper Fi.' "
Segovia served four years and then enlisted for a fifth year. He had two combat tours in Iraq, where he suffered a brain injury from a blast. He was never properly treated, not for his injury or for the post-traumatic stress he suffered afterwards, his supporters say. Instead, after his honorable discharge in 2004, he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. He had some violent episodes, including domestic-violence charges against a then-girlfriend.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Segovia's record included a driving-under-the-influence charge and six felony convictions. His new attorneys at Roy Petty & Associates in Dallas said the felonies were trumped up and would have been misdemeanors had he been represented by a private attorney instead of a public defender. Segovia was not told that pleading guilty to aggravated felonies would result in his deportation, they said.
"If Newsom looks at what actually happened -- he was involved in fights with his girlfriend," Sanchez said. "Those are all misdemeanors. But he was charged with felonies."
Those with legal permanent residency can live and work in the United States and must renew their "green cards" every 10 years. But the government can revoke that status and deport the green-card holders on a number of grounds, including aggravated felony convictions.
Segovia had a citizenship application in the works while he was still in the military and had that been completed, he would not be facing deportation after serving time for his crimes. Another application for citizenship was submitted last week.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
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