Jose Molina currently faces deportation from the only home he has ever known, and from the close-knit family to whom he has devoted his life.
Born in Panama, he was adopted by a U.S. citizen at 11 months old and brought to New York as a legal permanent resident seven months later. Since then, Jose has never left the U.S., and has no connection to Panama.
Yet Jose is threatened with mandatory deportation to that country due to a conviction from 20 years ago, when he was 18 years old.
Since 2007, Jose has worked tirelessly to build a life different than the abusive one he knew as a child. Despite enduring violence inside and outside the home throughout his childhood in New York City, Jose fulfilled his dream of building the loving family he never had, providing a stable life for his U.S. citizen wife, Jennifer, and his children, Joseph and Ariana, ages 12 and 14.
Over the past nine years, he has become a highly valued employee at the NYC Parks Department, where he interacts daily with the public in Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. His supervisors call him an “asset” to the agency and express the hope that his position there will be “lifelong.”
And yet, harsh immigration laws prohibit a judge from taking all these positive factors into consideration and stopping Jose’s deportation.
“I would like to say that he is a great person. He is the best dad you can have. He is all I can ask for.”
– Joseph Molina, Jose’s son, age 12
In addition to requesting prosecutorial discretion from DHS, Jose is seeking a pardon from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo for the one conviction that bars an immigration judge from being able to stop his deportation. Governor Cuomo has recognized the importance of validating the personal commitment of people who turned their lives around after a conviction and using his pardon power to remove the disproportionate consequences that can flow from a criminal record, including deportation. Given all Jose has done to change life for himself, his family and his community, please sign a letter of support requesting that Governor Cuomo grant a pardon for Jose’s 1997 conviction. A pardon will strengthen Jose’s request for prosecutorial discretion from DHS and give an immigration judge discretion to stop Jose’s deportation.
A difficult childhood
Jose’s childhood was far removed from the American dream. He grew up surrounded by violence in his Brooklyn neighborhood. He was mugged several times by young men in the street during the 1990s, and at 14 was slashed in the face by a classmate, requiring 30 stitches. Unfortunately, his home was no safe haven, as he had endured years of physical and verbal abuse by his mother and stepfather. Soon after the slashing, a hopeless Jose left high school and home, and faced life without an education or a family to support him.
In order to cope with constantly feeling unsafe, at age 14, Jose began drinking. At age 18, while under the influence of alcohol and after years of being bullied, he got into an altercation after being aggressively confronted in the street by young man known locally for being armed. He was convicted of felony assault and served two and a half years in prison. After his release, Jose continued to struggle with addiction and as a result, ended up with a few more convictions.
Around 2006, after seeking professional help, Jose began to turn his life around. Determined to be a positive member of his community, he committed himself to ensuring that neither of his children would ever feel the fear and despair he felt every day of his childhood.
“Without my father’s love, support and guidance, I wouldn’t have accomplished any of those things. My father is my role model and I love him with all my heart. Please do not tear my family apart…[my dad] might not be perfect to you but he is to me.” – Ariana Molina, Jose’s daughter, age 13
A New Beginning
In 2007, after attending alcohol rehabilitation, Jose got a job at the NYC Parks Department, where he has worked ever since. He is highly regarded by his supervisors for his dedication, professionalism, and reliability. Jose is immensely proud of his job, his DC-37 union membership, and his recent civil service title, which makes him a permanent employee of the Department. He has been so successful in his work at Van Cortlandt Park that he has been repeatedly promoted and given responsibilities reserved for a small number of trusted individuals.
“Jose’s work ethic, amiability, and reserved temperament make him a pleasure to work with. His camaraderie with other on staff is always cordial and friendly. His disposition makes him ideal for working around and interacting with the public. He takes his responsibility toward the park seriously…” – Dennis Burton, Administrative Horticulturalist, NYC Parks Department
Outside of work, Jose uses his time to support his children and the children in his neighborhood. He was awarded a Head Start Volunteer Award and also coaches a youth baseball league. The president of the Van Cortlandt Park Little League describes him as “a great mentor in reaching out to kids about life lessons, discipline, morals, honor, and respect.”
Jose has raised two intelligent, strong, and kind children who are completely devoted to him. His daughter, an honors student at her charter school and vice president of the student council clearly states the importance of her father in her life.
A Family Torn Apart
Around 5:30 AM on January 30, 2013, officers from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency pounded on the door of the family’s apartment. Thinking they were local police, Jose’s wife opened the door and five officers pushed past her into their home. As officers surrounded Jose and his wife in the living room, another blocked the children, screaming and crying, in their rooms, and prevented their parents from comforting them. Jose’s wife begged them to tell her why they were there. It was not until they handcuffed Jose in front of the family that they told her they were immigration agents sent to detain and deport Jose for two convictions from years ago.
“[ICE] came into our house one morning… They were pulling things out of drawers and looking at everything in the house. They were yelling at my father. My mother was screaming and crying…I was really scared. They had guns in their pockets. Then they took my father away…We didn’t see him for a long time.” – Joseph Molina
Jose spent the next two months in immigration detention. His children, without their father, cried themselves to sleep every night. Their mother began to suffer panic attacks. Jose was released from detention after his case was terminated favorably by a judge, but the government appealed, and Jose and his family live with the daily fear that he may be re-detained at any moment and permanently deported.