Yellow Springs officials openly questioned their policies and practices regarding arrests after a village resident was detained because of his immigration status.
The Aug. 26 arrest and potential deportation of 41-year-old Miguel A. Espinosa shocked some Dayton-area residents and villagers who know him as a family man who operates the food truck Miguel’s Tacos.
Espinosa was taken to the Greene County Jail and booked on charges of no driver’s license and driving under suspension. He was then transferred to the Butler County Jail, where he is being detained by ICE.
In the days that followed his detainment by ICE, Espinosa and his wife received an outpouring of support from village residents. The village released a statement, with Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson listed as the contact person, that said, “We are saddened by the unintended consequences of our protocol on Mr. Espinosa.”
“We, as a municipal government and police department, must face the reality of the catastrophic damage that our actions can have, particularly on our vulnerable populations,” the statement reads.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said as an inmate in his jail, Espinosa “will probably be deported.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that Yellow Springs is trying to backtrack. I feel sorry for their police officers,” Jones said. “The citizens there should rethink who their elected officials are.”
Espinosa’s wife Dawn Boyer said they have received 125 letters of support from people after news spread on social media of Espinosa’s detention. Those letters will be submitted by their lawyer as part of a motion for a bond hearing, Boyer said.
“(The lawyers have) not seen this level of community support in a case like this before,” Boyer said. “I think that they’re hopeful or optimistic that the judge will be willing to grant a bond hearing.”
The Dayton Daily News requested and obtained the dash cam video of the Yellow Springs traffic stop. The video shows police initiated the traffic stop after Espinosa stopped on North Winter Street and turned left onto Yellow Springs Fairfield Road. The officer told Espinosa he failed to stop before the stop bar on Winter Street.
The encounter was the fourth time Espinosa had been stopped by Yellow Springs police in three years. In 2016 he was cited for not having a driver’s license; in July 2018 he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated; in December 2018 he was stopped again and charged with not having a license and driving under suspension, according to Xenia Municipal Court records.
Court records show Espinosa has paid nearly $2,500 in court fines and fees.
Village officials are reviewing “protocols, guidelines and policies to find a better solution that meets our legal requirements, ensures public safety and well-being of the community, and is sensitive to the dynamics of vulnerable populations,” according to the statement.
Dayton-based immigration attorney Shahrzad Allen said many foreign nationals choose to go into hiding in this country instead of trying to get citizenship through proper channels because the way the system works. She said in some cases it’s better for immigrants to go through the removal procedures in court.
“I have some extremely decent, hardworking clients who do not qualify for any type of benefits unless they’re put in removal proceedings,” Allen said. “A lot of individuals who are here undocumented, if they had a way to get legal status, they would pursue it.”
Jones said it’s sad that Espinosa has three children, who will be allowed to stay in the U.S., “but he should not be here whatsoever.”
“He’s here illegally and the police department did exactly what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “I don’t make the rules for ICE, but I assume they’re going to deport him. This guy could have stayed under the radar forever.”
Boyer said she and Espinosa, who immigrated from outside Mexico City, met in May 2000 and married in Tampa in 2004. They have three children together, ages 5, 10 and 15.
Boyer said they tried to get legal documentation for Espinosa on two separate occasions in New York and in Florida. She said they were waiting for one last piece of required documentation from the government that they never received when they decided to move back to her hometown of Yellow Springs.
“As we began to build a family and tried to do things that people tend to do when they get married, you know buy a home or try to start a business, it just became really clear all of the hurdles that were in front of us,” she said. “You get caught up living your life and raising kids and doing what you have to do every day. The path to citizenship for people who are here unlawfully, who entered without a visa, it’s extremely narrow, especially after 9/11.”
To be granted a bond, Allen said Espinosa would have to meet certain criteria, including being in the country for at least 10 years, be of good moral character, and have a qualifying family member such as a wife or child.
If bond is not granted and Espinosa is deported, he would not be allowed to legally return for 10 years.
“If we could just have immigration reform, we could take care of these issues. The laws are complicated and that’s where the problem is,” she said. “As I advocate for my clients, I know our laws really well, but the laws don’t work. Something needs to be done so we don’t have situations like this.”
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