by Diane Craig
A long-time San Juan County resident was detained and released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Coast Guard boarded a small boat in the San Juan archipelago on Jan. 29. Traveling with the Coast Guard was a Customs and Border Patrol agent, and on board the small craft was Orcas resident and landscaper Jesus Cora, who was heading to his job on Trump Island, a job he has been traveling to and from for 10 years.
Because Coro, who is originally from Acapulco, was unable to demonstrate satisfactory evidence of U.S. citizenship, he was detained and transferred to the ICE Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Another individual on the boat was also detained and transferred and chose to return to his country of origin rather than fight deportation.
Letters attesting to Coro’s character and integrity along with swift action by the Local Immigrant Family Treasury that provided Coro with an emergency loan of $12,000 enabled him to post bond and be released. He returned to Orcas and his family on Feb. 8. An anonymous Lopez resident secured an immigration attorney for Coro because he believes him to be a “wonderful person.”
Coro, or “Chucho” to many, lived on Lopez for 14 years before moving to Orcas. A property owner on Lopez, Coro volunteers for the annual 4th of July Parade and traditionally rides on one of the parade’s floats. In 2018, he married and moved to Orcas, where his wife Leslin has lived for 17 years. On Orcas, he has helped coach kids’ soccer and runs a successful landscaping business. He and his wife and their four children are proud to call Orcas their home.
According to Leslin, this is the first time in 10 years that the Coast Guard has stopped the small private vessel that transports Coro back and forth to Trump Island.
The next step is preparation for his deportation hearing. The date has not yet been set but it will happen sometime in the next one to three years. According to Eleanor Hoague, chairperson of LIFT and a former immigration attorney, his attorney believes he has a “good case” for cancellation of deportation. If the judge grants cancellation then Coro becomes a permanent resident, and after three to five years he can become a U.S. citizen.
“The ‘cancellation of deportation’ is only available to those who have been picked up by ICE and put into deportation proceedings. Before he was picked up, there was no way for Chucho to have applied to become legal, not even with a permanent resident wife and four U.S. citizen children. Frustrating, but true,” said Hoague.
Should the boat be stopped again, Leslin said, his attorney has assured them he is protected from further detainment because his case is “in process.”
Many citizens on both islands have rallied to support Coro in the impending legal process, which is likely to cost $35,000. To help defray some of the legal costs, fundraising plans are underway and donations can be made to the LIFT account at Islanders Bank.
“Anything will be of help,” Hoague said. “People like Chucho are valuable additions to any community. We’re fortunate to have him and his family a part of ours.”