OCEAN CITY — While immigration reform was a significant pillar of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, a local case of an undocumented illegal alien and single father taken into custody in Ocean City in early 2013 and now facing yet another deportation hearing continues to plod forward this week.
On Feb. 5, 2013, Noe Parra-Manrique, an undocumented Mexican living and working in construction in the resort area, was pulled over by Ocean City Police for missing a screw on the license plate of his work truck. The single father of a 6-year-old girl, born in the U.S., had just dropped off his daughter with a babysitter and was heading to work. The subsequent investigation revealed Manrique had been driving without a license and he was taken into custody and transported to the Public Safety Building where it was determined he was also undocumented.
About an hour later, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrived and transported Manrique to the Worcester County Detention Center. Manrique was held in Snow Hill overnight and was questioned for eight hours the following day. Finally, after the babysitter confirmed Manrique was the father of a local girl, it was determined he was eligible for release on an immigration bond. Thirty-six hours after last seeing his young daughter, Manrique was sent home with a misdemeanor traffic charge, but he was also put into deportation proceedings.
In the nearly year since, Manrique has appeared for several deportation hearings before an immigration judge, the latest coming just two weeks ago. On two separate occasions, including the hearing two weeks ago, an immigration judge has postponed the proceedings in order to gather more information on Manrique’s case. His final court date is now set for March, when he will ultimately learn if he will get relief from deportation or be permanently banished from the U.S., likely leaving his 6-year-old daughter behind.
Undocumented aliens living and working in the resort area and all over the Eastern Shore often face deportation for a wide variety of reasons, typically when arrested and convicted of serious crimes. In Manrique’s case, a simple missing screw on a license plate and the subsequent arrest in Ocean City could send him back to Mexico without his 6-yer-old daughter, who was born and is being raised in this country.
Manrique is facing deportation for not having a driver’s license in 2013, despite the fact Maryland state law prohibited him from obtaining one at the time. On Dec. 31, 2013, a new law went into effect in Maryland allowing undocumented immigrants to receive state driver’s licenses, but the law change appears to have come too late for Manrique. He has no prior criminal record in his 14 years in the U.S. and yet he faces deportation over because of a simple traffic violation.
The Ocean City Police Department, along with other allied law enforcement agencies on the Lower Shore, participates in a federal program that allows local and state officials to hold immigrants in prison until federal immigration officials can pick them up and enter them into the deportation process. While Manrique’s fate remains uncertain, the statistics don’t appear to be in his favor. According to a 2008 study, 46 percent of immigrants held in Worcester County after being taken into custody for a variety of reasons have been deported.
In Manrique’s case, the simple missing license plate screw and subsequent arrest for failing to have a license has put him into a deportation process. A federal immigration judge has the authority to release Manrique from deportation and allow him to remain in the resort area to raise his young daughter under the fairly new Parental Interests Directive. Given his clean record and the fact he alone is raising his American-born daughter in the Ocean City area, Manrique could benefit from the new program, but he might need some help.
To that end, an organization called United We Dream has started an online petition directed at Congressman Andy Harris asking him to intercede on Manrique’s behalf. By mid-week, the petition had been signed by over 4,900 supporters. It remains uncertain if the petition will achieve the desired results for Manrique, but it has clearly generated interest in the case.
According to the petition, Manrique desires to remain in the U.S., if only for the benefit of his young daughter, who was born in America.
“Noe stated that although it is too late for him to attain an education, he understands that the U.S. provides abundant opportunities for his daughter Anita to attain and education,” the petition reads. “Noe said that his personal aspiration and the greatest joy in his life is to watch his daughter succeed and be somebody.”
The petition calls for federal authorities to prevent Manrique from being deported.
“An intelligent 6-year-old girl with a bright future is faced with the difficult decision of possibly being separated from her father,” the petition reads. “Especially in light of the new Parental Interests Directive, there is no reason why Noe, a man of outstanding moral character, should be uncertain about the days he has left to spend with his daughter, for whom he is the primary caretaker.”