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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Deportation hits Nashua family hard

MANCHESTER – The sound of people knocking on Octavio and Nashaley Padilla’s door in fall 2012 interrupted an otherwise quiet evening. But when Nashaley opened the door, she got a sinking feeling that has only deepened with time.

Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said they’d come looking for someone involved in an accident, Padilla said Wednesday, holding 5-year-old daughter Jasmin, who is battling brain cancer. But that was just a ruse. ...

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MANCHESTER – The sound of people knocking on Octavio and Nashaley Padilla’s door in fall 2012 interrupted an otherwise quiet evening. But when Nashaley opened the door, she got a sinking feeling that has only deepened with time.

Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said they’d come looking for someone involved in an accident, Padilla said Wednesday, holding 5-year-old daughter Jasmin, who is battling brain cancer. But that was just a ruse.

ICE, it turned out, was after her husband, Octavio, and the moment they found him in the garage, he was in handcuffs on his way to a police vehicle.

“Someone called ICE on him,” Nashaley Padilla said.

In court, Octavio Padilla was ordered deported to his native Mexico. He had to be gone by mid-February. It’s the last time Nashaley, who also faces health challenges – including deteriorating eyesight that will eventually leave her blind – would see her husband, the young family’s breadwinner and emotional rock.

Octavio Padilla became a statistic that day, joining hundreds of thousands of others living in the U.S. who have been deported, according to immigrant advocates and social justice groups.

The family’s story, which Nashaley Padilla shared at a personal “storytelling” event at St. Augustine Church on Wednesday afternoon, is particularly compelling because of the family’s failing health. Jasmin, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer on March 12, has, at best, a 50 percent chance of survival.

Padilla’s story riveted dozens attendees who gathered at St. Augustine following a rain-shortened rally in front of the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Chestnut Street, which houses a local ICE office. The event was part of “Week of Action,” a series of prayer vigils, rallies and education events held throughout the state this week to protest the detention and deportation of immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

“Week of Action” events continue Thursday, when activists from Nashua, Manchester and the Seacoast will join other New Englanders for a rally at the regional ICE office and detention center in Burlington, Mass.

The week-long program, whose slogan is “Not One More,” wraps up Friday in Concord, where a noontime “break-the-fast” at the South Congregational Church will be followed by a vigil at the Warren Rudman Federal Courthouse, 55 Pleasant St.

In addition to spreading word of the cause locally, organizers said a main purpose of Week of Action is to call publicly on the Obama administration to halt deportation of immigrants who will be eligible to stay under the “path to citizenship” proposal if, and when, immigration reform legislation becomes law.

“We’re collecting signatures this week to send to President Obama, to tell him to stop deportations now,” said Judy Elliott of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. “The rate of deportations is worse than ever, even though President Obama said he would be compassionate. Families are being torn apart,” she said.

Eva Castillo, director of the alliance, said ICE’s own statistics show that 23 percent of immigrants deported between July 2010 and September 2012 had children who are U.S. citizens. Further, she said, “45 percent of people deported in 2012 had no criminal convictions at all” even though “the (Obama) administration and ICE have stated repeatedly that their priority is detention and deportation of serious criminals.”

For the Padillas, meanwhile, New Hampshire Catholic Charities is helping Nashaley Padilla through the process of appealing her husband’s deportation, while the support arm of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital is helping financially and with Jasmin’s care.

As tough as is her battle with cancer, Padilla said, Jasmin also still is reeling from the sight of her father getting led away in handcuffs.

“She saw the whole thing,” Padilla said. “She’s had counselling over that. To this day, she gets afraid every time she sees someone in a police uniform.”

Padilla, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, said that after her husband was deported, she began making plans to move her and her girls to Mexico so the family could be together. In need of eye surgery to try to slow the progression of her condition, she scheduled the operation with plans to leave shortly afterward.

But then, Jasmin fell ill, forcing them to cancel the trip.

“Now, I spend so much time at the hospital, my younger girls stay with my mother,” Padilla said, adding that her mother also lives in Nashua.

She figured that if she informed immigration officials of her, and especially Jasmin’s, illnesses and family situation, they may consider at least a temporary reprieve for her husband.

“But all I heard was ‘no,’ ” she said. “The worst thing we imagined was we wouldn’t be together. And that’s what happened.”

Jasmin, Padilla said, yearns only to see her father. “We asked her, if you wished to go somewhere, anywhere, like Disneyland, what would you pick?

“All she kept saying was to see her dad,” Padilla said. “That’s her only wish.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).