"I agree he might be an upstanding member of the community, but the bottom line is he and his family are here illegally, and now the legal process has gone its full course. This is a simple matter of how using the legal avenues available to people who are here illegally can stall deportation proceedings."
Rogers says the INS in the past has delayed its voluntary deportation order for the Gamez Lopezes until the end of a school year. "He's not the only one in that position," Rogers said. "What's the difference of five years in his case versus someone else who is also a good person and been here just one year?"
After Gamez Lopez was detained in 1980, he signed an INS document saying he would voluntarily leave the country within 10 days, Rogers said. Instead, relying on advice of his friends and attorney, Gamez Lopez appealed the deportation. At each level, from a hearing before an immigration court judge to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, he lost. The last appeal was rejected in May.
While his case was wending its way through the legal system, Gamez Lopez pinned his family's hopes on controversial immigration legislation in Congress known as the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. One part of the bill offered amnesty to immigrants living in the United States as of the late 1970s, which would have covered the Gamez Lopezes.
But the bill died, dashing the family's hopes.
Donovan J. Dunnion of San Diego, the family's second lawyer, says that, with the exception of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, this is the end of the line for the family. He is attempting to convert the deportation order to a voluntary deportation, which would allow the family to apply for visas in the future. However, Rogers, of the INS, said such a change is unlikely, since Gamez Lopez had opportunities to leave voluntarily and didn't.
"The policies are quite rigid and that's the problem," Dunnion said. "This is a nice, nice family. It seems the current laws are just designed to deport nice people . . . while the scum-of-the-earth people don't fight it and come right back."