An immigration judge appears poised to cancel the deportation of an immigrant in the country illegally who was arrested near the Mexican border last year and accused of smuggling after giving a ride to a teenager.
Jesus Arreola Robles, now 24, said he thought he was giving a paid ride to a friend's 17-year-old cousin the night of Feb. 12, 2017. Instead, he said the teen duped him into driving to Campo, a town east of San Diego near the border, where they were arrested by Customs and Border Protection officers.
In the end, Arreola was never charged with a crime. The teenager, who was in the country illegally, was deported.
During a hearing Monday, Arreola’s lawyer argued his petition for cancellation of removal before a Los Angeles-based judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. He successfully argued that Arreola’s parents, who are legal residents, would suffer if he could no longer help care for his severely disabled sister.
Immigrants in the country illegally who are slated for deportation can apply for cancellation of their removal if they have lived in the United States for at least 10 years, haven’t been convicted of certain serious crimes and prove that their removal would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to their U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse, parent or child. Those approved become eligible to apply for permanent residency.
But only 4,000 such cases can be granted nationally each year. That cap has been met this year.
Judges who are leaning toward granting the relief typically postpone their judgement until the cap is replenished, said an EOIR spokesman. Judge Jan Latimore reserved her decision, the spokesman said, which means it’s likely Arreola will be granted cancellation of his removal from the United States at his next hearing in August.
At the hearing, an attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency wouldn’t oppose the judge’s decision or seek an appeal.
"Ultimately, it’s going to be a very happy ending," said Arreola's attorney, Joe Porta. "The hard work is done. We’ve just got to be patient now."
After his arrest, Arreola, who worked for a ride-share company, said he often picked up friends for off-the-books rides. He had agreed to drive a friend's cousin from Sun Valley to the San Diego area and back.
He was released on bond a couple weeks later and he was never charged with a crime.
Arreola's parents brought him to the United States illegally from Mexico when he was a year old. He had had a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program since 2012 and his only prior offense was a speeding ticket.
After Arreola’s arrest by immigration authorities, he was stripped of his work permit. But last November, a federal court in Los Angeles ordered the U.S. government to restore his DACA status. It had expired in August.
He was one of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of young immigrants challenging the Trump administration's decisions to terminate their DACA grants and work authorizations "based on unproven allegations or low-level offenses, such as traffic violations" that do not disqualify them from the program.
Arreola paid half the rent at his family's North Hollywood home and helps care for his 18-year-old sister, who has progeria, a rare genetic disease that causes premature aging, along with several other conditions. She requires constant attention.
He and his girlfriend have a 10-month-old son and another baby on the way. While he awaits the results of the hearing next August, he applied for a temporary work permit that he’s expecting within a few months.