Jorge Ramirez, an Oceanside minister and immigrant who is in the country illegally, didn’t think he would end up in line for deportation when he encouraged his U.S. citizen daughter to vote for now-President Trump.
In an interview at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, Ramirez — who said he holds conservative religious beliefs and considers himself a Republican — explained that Border Patrol agents picked him up after staking out his house early one May morning.
Ramirez said he does not know why he was targeted for removal from the U.S. The Trump administration has said that it is focusing on immigrants with criminal records and those who previously have been ordered deported. Ramirez said he falls into neither category.
“Trump said, ‘Let’s keep all the good people here and all the bad people out,’” Ramirez said.
“That’s great, but I’m here,” Ramirez said of his detention. “I’m not saying I’m the best person in the world, but I’ve tried to live a good life.”
He said he supports the Republican agenda on both fiscal and social issues and that he still supports Trump.
“Everything that he’s said against immigrants — it’s not that I’m in favor, but bad people don’t belong here,” Ramirez said. “In order to make America great, you have to have people contributing to this country.”
Ramirez said he also encouraged his youngest daughter to volunteer with the campaign of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).
Ramirez came to the U.S. with his family when he was 11 and was raised in San Diego County. In high school, he joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps for the Marines, and when the Gulf War began, he tried to enlist. The military would not accept him because of his immigration status, he said.
“I’m USA all the way,” Ramirez said. “It’s that American spirit. It just gets into you.”
When he worked as a satellite television technician, he frequently went to Camp Pendleton. He always tried to show the Marines he encountered how grateful he was for their service, he said.
“They sacrifice so much for freedom and for us,” he said.
The issue he has with the way immigration policy is being implemented, he said, is that he’s seen good people in detention.
“To think that undeserving people are coming here makes me sad,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez believes that going to immigration detention is part of God’s plan for him. He prayed for a way to sort out his immigration status not long before he was arrested by Border Patrol.
Inside the facility, he’s been counseling and supporting other detainees with a message of hope and love, he said. Ramirez has spent his life as part of the Apostolic Church, where he is a music minister.
Ramirez had hoped to get released on bond at an immigration court hearing Thursday. His three children, all U.S. citizens, came with Juan Hernandez, the pastor for their church, to watch. They prayed in the waiting room.
His attorney, Ruben Salazar, said he felt positive about Ramirez’s potential for bond and for getting relief from deportation when he presents his full case in immigration court.
“He’s the kind of immigrant America seeks to have,” Salazar said.
As the family was escorted into the courtroom, Judge David Anderson was telling Salazar that he would need more time to read through the 210-page packet Salazar had submitted to show Ramirez’s ties to his community. It included several letters of support, records of Ramirez’s tax filings, his school achievements and awards his children have won.
Anderson rescheduled the hearing for August, so Ramirez will have to wait in detention at least six more weeks.
Morrissey writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune