The Washington Post

Guatemalan national with U.S. family can stay in country

Jorge Penate is seen at his family’s home on Tuesday Dec. 24, 2013 in Gainesville, Va. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

The U.S. government on Monday dropped deportation proceedings against Jorge Penate, a Guatemalan national who pleaded guilty about two years ago to reckless driving and whose family has been mounting a legal case to keep him in the country.

The outcome frees him from any imminent threat of deportation, but does not grant him legal status.

It’s not what we hoped for or even thought would happen, but it’s 100 times better than the worst-case scenario,” said Dianne Twinam Penate, Jorge’s wife.

The Gainesville, Va., family may have a chance to adjust his status through a waiver that he can apply for while in the United States. It could be granted if he proves that separation from a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen would cause extreme hardship.

The Penates are one of a growing number of mixed-status families that have been affected by the record number of deportations in recent years.

Each of an estimated 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens has a parent who is undocumented, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center. In fiscal 2012 alone, about 150,000 children with citizenship had a parent deported, according to a study by Human Impact Partners, a health advocacy group.

Jason Penate, 12, attended his father’s hearing Monday.

He may not have followed each part of the complicated proceedings, his mother said, but “he does understand now that his dad is not going to be deported, and he does have a chance to change his status.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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