About 25 protesters marched across downtown Fresno Thursday in support of Joaquin Antonio Sotelo Tarin, a U.S. Navy veteran who must report to ICE on Feb. 12 and could face deportation.
The group started outside a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility on L Street before ending at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office at the federal courthouse on Tulare Street. They held signs and chanted as they walked.
Tarin, who said he came to the United States as an undocumented 8-year-old from Mexico, said he and other veterans who are not legal residents of the country in which they served should be treated with more respect.
He called the current immigration system “broken,” saying the two years since his release from immigration custody has already done permanent damage to his family.
In 2014, Tarin pleaded guilty to several felonies including a domestic violence charge. He served about a year-and-a-half in prison, after which he was immediately picked up by ICE and detained for another year-and-a-half before being released on bond in January 2017.
He said Thursday that he has not been allowed to work since his 2017 release, nor can he receive state money to attend college. His family will soon lose their Los Banos home.
The march aimed to put pressure on Feinstein, who Tarin’s lawyers say has assisted in previous immigration cases.
No one from Feinstein’s office attended the protest. In a statement to The Bee, the office said Tarin had requested case work assistance, and it does not comment on any constituents currently receiving that aid.
Tarin said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He took responsibility for his past crimes, he added, but he’s also been receiving help. He’s completed his court-ordered rehabilitation and has had no further run-ins with the law.
He lamented the idea that he could serve and perhaps die for the United States as a sailor, but the father of four may not be able to serve his community as a civilian.
“It may be hard to believe, but if I die (in Mexico), my body will be extradited to the United States and buried here,” Tarin said through a megaphone outside Feinstein’s office. “I’m good enough for this country when I’m dead, but not when I’m alive.”