Valley Navy veteran who feared deportation remains free, out of ICE’s custody

A U.S. Navy veteran who had feared might be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Fresno on Tuesday was allowed to remain free, following an injunction from a federal district judge.

Several activists and community members accompanied Joaquin Antonio Sotelo Tarin for a scheduled check-in appointment with ICE on Tuesday morning.

Tarin, who is from Merced and has a past criminal history, referred questions to his attorney Etan Newman.

ICE was trying to detain him on Tuesday, Newman said. But U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer issued an injunction on Monday, preventing ICE from detaining him.

“We never know if ICE is going to abide by judicial orders and other laws. Sometimes they don’t,” Newman said, adding that if they would have detained Tarin, it would have been a violation of the order.

Tarin’s supporters were still concerned of what could happen, and tagged along Tuesday as he went to report to ICE.

The check-in was brief. Tarin was asked for his signature and given another check-in date.

Tarin has to check-in with ICE again on Feb. 28, which is “way sooner” than Newman expected. He said he finds it “outrageous” that ICE is requiring him to check in.

But some of his supporters were feeling a bit of relief on Tuesday.

“The situation is looking good,” said Salvador Sandoval, who came to Fresno from Merced on Tuesday to show his support for Tarin. “He has a lot of support in the community.”

Brisa Cruz, with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, said Monday’s injunction is a step in the right direction.

“That’s a victory for us,” she said. “This is not the only case that we’ve been fighting for and that we will continue to fight for.”

Tarin came to the U.S. when he was around 10 from Mexico, and years later he became a legal permanent resident.

He later enlisted in the Navy, where he served 2001-06. He was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Upon his return, he got into trouble with the law, starting in 2009. Tarin has convictions that include possession of a controlled substance, domestic violence, dissuading a witness and hit-and-run.

Newman said those convictions were a result of Tarin not getting the treatment he needed to deal with anxiety and depression after retuning home from service.

He was placed in removal proceedings to be deported in 2013, Newman said.

Tarin was in the custody of federal immigration officials, but in 2017, a judge allowed him to be released on bond. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the judge’s bond decision, saying Tarin should be detained.

Newman is now challenging that reversal as being unconstitutional at the U.S. District Court, where the hearing on the petition to prevent ICE from detaining Tarin was heard in San Francisco on Monday.

Monday’s order prevents ICE from detaining Tarin while the federal district court’s case is ongoing, Newman said. Though, Tarin’s immigration court case is also still ongoing, and his next hearing is scheduled for December.

“The government is trying to deport Joaquin,” Newman said. “They placed him on removal proceedings and those are ongoing. We are obviously arguing that he shouldn’t be deported” or detained as those court proceedings continue.

Native American and Vietnam War veteran David Alvarez, who was among a small group of veterans supporting Tarin on Tuesday in Fresno, said rather than treating Tarin’s PTSD, the government is trying to “wash” its hands by trying to send him somewhere else.

“He’s a wounded veteran,” he said. “We have a responsibility to heal him... They gave me intensive treatment, and I don’t think he’s gotten that.”

Yesenia Amaro: 559-441-6144, @YeseniaAmaro
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Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.