Illegal Indian immigrant is granted rare reprieve, allowed to stay in U.S.

Yves Gomes, set to become the third member of his family to be deported to India, has been granted a last-minute reprieve by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 12, 2010

His younger brother is an American citizen. His parents were illegal immigrants, deported to Bangladesh and India. For two years, Yves Gomes, who spent all but 14 months of his 17 years in Silver Spring, lived in limbo, wondering in which direction his path lay.

On Monday, it looked like Kolkata.

Late Tuesday, he began to think it might be College Park.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted him a rare last-minute reprieve. His deportation to India, scheduled for Friday, was put on hold. He could pursue his stalled application to the University of Maryland.

The case, which has been used by immigrant advocates to publicize the parts of the deportation system they consider most unfair, comes amid a heated national debate about illegal immigration and controversy over how decisions are made over whom to deport.

But for Gomes, who took five Advanced Placement classes in his senior year at Paint Branch High School before graduating in June with a 3.8 grade-point average, it was about something else equally compelling: his future in the only country he has ever known.

"I consider myself an American," Gomes said this week, sitting on a couch in his relatives' home, leafing through a children's Bengali alphabet book that he could not decipher.

Gomes had been scheduled to be escorted to a plane Friday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to join his mother in Kolkata, where she was deported last year. There, Cecilia Gomes said in a telephone interview, he would share a room with three other relatives in a slum neighborhood where he would be unable to speak the language, face health risks and have few prospects to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.

"Yes, he's not going to get a mom's love and a dad's love," she said. "But he's 17. His life is going to start. He has so many dreams. . . . I would rather sacrifice not seeing him and see him be successful."

Those who call for stricter restrictions on immigration say children who were brought here as infants by illegal immigrants should not be given a free pass into the country.

"Obviously, kids in this situation are sympathetic cases," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter controls. "My real concern is that it not become a policy that all people in this position won't be deported because that then creates expectations and that really is a formalized amnesty."

The government's process of tracking down and deporting Yves's parents and its continued close watch on the high school student stand in contrast to the experience of Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano, who is charged with killing a nun and injuring two others in Prince William County while driving drunk. The Bolivian immigrant, who allegedly entered the United States illegally at 8 with his parents and sister, has been awaiting a deportation hearing after two convictions for drunken driving in 2007 and 2008.

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