A deportation case against a dead man

Nasin Mauricio Rivera died in San Bernardino County in August and his body was shipped to his native El Salvador for burial.

Seven months later, the federal government is still proceeding with the deportation case against him. A hearing is scheduled for this summer.

Attorneys for Rivera, an illegal immigrant, said his case is a waste of resources and should be closed.

“To us, it’s a matter of principle -- a dead person should not be deported,” said immigration attorney Edgardo Quintanilla. At a November hearing in Los Angeles Immigration Court, attorney Alberto Lopez presented a photocopy of Rivera’s death certificate. Lopez had obtained the copy from Blanca Ramirez, who was divorced from Rivera but still lived with him in Echo Park.


Lopez said the attorney from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him the copy wasn’t sufficient.

There are two types of certified death certificates: an informational copy available to anyone and an authorized copy restricted to certain family members and law enforcement. Lopez said the only type of certificate he or Rivera’s ex-wife could obtain was the informational one.

At another court hearing last week, Lopez said the judge urged the government attorney to determine the validity of the certificate Lopez presented.

Immigration spokeswoman Virginia Kice said she could not talk about Rivera’s case but added that if an illegal immigrant dies while in proceedings, the attorney must provide evidence that the person is, in fact, deceased. Typically, she said, a certified copy of the death certificate is enough.

“The bottom line is the government is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the immigration hearing process,” she said. Rivera came to the U.S. in 1989 and met Ramirez a few years later. The couple married and raised three children. The relationship was rocky and the couple divorced in 2001. Ramirez said she obtained a restraining order against him, citing domestic violence. Soon afterward, she said, he was arrested for violating the order.

Rivera had applied for permanent residency but had to appear in immigration court because of the restraining-order violation, his attorney said. Despite that, Lopez said Rivera still had a good case. His immigration trial was scheduled for November 2008.

But on Aug. 3, Rivera went with his brothers to Phelan, where he collapsed in the desert. According to the San Bernardino County coroner’s office, Rivera was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was a heart condition.

At their apartment, Ramirez framed Rivera’s funeral home program and placed it on a mantel, alongside an open Bible, a vase of white roses and several family portraits. She said she is angry that the U.S. government is still trying to deport Rivera.


“It’s the most ridiculous thing I have heard,” she said. --