Faced with the possibility of her fiancé's deportation, Kristin Glauner of Crystal Lake now must make decisions about her family’s future, including whether to relocate them to another country at a moment’s notice.
Cesar Elizarraraz-Soto, 41, has been detained at the McHenry County Jail’s immigration detention center for almost two years. On May 21, he learned that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit denied a request to stay his deportation to Mexico while his appeal is pending.
“We’d have to go to a foreign country that none of us are familiar with,” Glauner said. “He hasn’t been there since he was 13. I don’t speak Spanish. Not all my kids speak Spanish. That’s why he’s appealing his case and everything, because of the violence there.”
Flights to Mexico for immigration removals generally occur on Tuesdays and Fridays. Elizarraraz-Soto was not on the list to be removed Friday, said Maria Baldini-Potermin, his immigration attorney.
“He could be on the list for Tuesday or Friday next week,” she said.
Elizarraraz-Soto was one of the 126 immigration detainees held at the county jail as of Thursday. The rest of the jail’s population is composed of 194 additional people being detained on local charges, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an email.
If he were to return to Mexico, Elizarraraz-Soto fears he would face probable persecution and torture, Baldini-Potermin said Friday.
“Because of the reinstatement of the prior order of removal, he was not eligible to apply for asylum, which is a much lower standard,” Baldini-Potermin said.
The attorney said she plans to file an application for stay of removal with the Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office Monday.
The effects of Elizarraraz-Soto’s deportation would extend to Glauner and their five children, ages 19, 15, 10, 6 and 4. Overall, the process in some ways has been all too fast, and in others, it has moved slow, Glauner said.
“Not to mention [COVID-19] kind of put a whole new spin on things,” she said.
With heightened caution surrounding COVID-19 outbreaks and the jail, detainees spent long stretches of time under quarantine and ate mostly cold foods such as chips and sandwiches, said Arturo Elizarraraz, Elizarraraz-Soto’s brother.
The family also has to pay $12.50 to video chat with Elizarraraz-Soto remotely since the jail’s free on-site video visitation has been inaccessible to the public during the pandemic.
“Thankfully, we’re able to afford it,” Glauner said.
The day she learned her fiancé's deportation was imminent, Glauner said she had a litany of questions.
“How can we keep him here? Is there any other way to keep him here, and if not, can you speed up the process to go see him?” she said.
Elizarraraz-Soto is fighting his removal out of fear of persecution and torture if he were to return to Mexico.
Elizarraraz-Soto arrived in the U.S. as a child with his brothers and father and has spent the majority of his life in Crystal Lake. He initially was encountered by immigration authorities Feb. 24, 2000, and subsequently deported to Mexico on March 15, 2000, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He later returned to the U.S. and again encountered ICE officials Sept. 19, 2019. His previous order of removal was reinstated, according to ICE. Elizarraraz-Soto’s recent appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals was dismissed April 19, and an additional motion for an emergency stay of removal was denied May 21, according to ICE.
“ICE is using the civil immigration enforcement priorities directed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 20, to focus its limited resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety,” ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock said in an email. “ICE will continue to carry out the duties of enforcing the laws of the United States to further the security and safety of our communities.”
Elizarraraz-Soto most recently came into contact with ICE after his September 2019 arrest on charges of theft and selling used cars without a license.
According to a criminal complaint filed in McHenry County court, Elizarraraz-Soto was accused at the time of changing the mileage on a car from 317,000 miles to 125,000 miles before selling it to a customer without a license. Prosecutors dismissed the theft charge in 2019, and Elizarraraz-Soto accepted a plea deal that April. In exchange for his guilty plea to selling used cars without a license, he was sentenced to one year of court supervision, records show.
Elizarraraz-Soto’s criminal history includes illegal reentry to the U.S. and decades-old convictions of retail theft and aggravated battery.
His family, however, said Elizarrarz-Soto is not a danger to the community and should be allowed to fight his deportation while free on bond.
“His kids, all of them, are very well mannered. He has a lot of community support,” Elizarraraz said. “It’s been sad to see that none of that really has mattered.”
Community members, including those involved with the Coalition to End the ICE Contract in McHenry County, have drawn public attention to Elizarraraz-Soto’s case. Glauner and two of her children also spoke at a May 8 McHenry County Board meeting ahead of a vote that would determine whether to end the county’s contract with ICE. The board voted in favor of keeping the contract.
“It really shows the impact that it can have on the community and the families within it,” McHenry County Board member Tanya Jindrich said.
Elizarraraz-Soto’s story reached U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, after the local coalition encouraged residents to reach out to their representatives.
“My office has reached out to the Elizarraraz family to offer our assistance and to the Department of Homeland Security for more information,” Casten wrote in an email. “It’s past time we take serious action to fix our broken immigration system and honor the dignity and outsized contribution of all those who come to our country to build a brighter future for their families.”
On Thursday, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 667, requiring existing agreements between ICE and local jails in McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties to end by Jan. 1. The bill has the potential to eliminate McHenry County’s contract with ICE, although the longer-term effects of that proposed legislation still are unclear.
“If all of the detention facilities are closed down in Illinois, unless ICE builds its own detention facilities, then families may find their loved ones transferred to large detention facilities in Texas, Louisiana or Georgia,” Baldini-Potermin said.
Elizarraraz-Soto and his family might not be in their current situation, however, if proposed legislation had been in effect at the time of his arrest, Glauner said.
“I don’t think he would have been handed over to ICE,” she said. “I think he would have had to go through his process for the selling cars issues, and he would have been home with us. He wouldn’t have been directly handed over to ICE.”