A Medford man who has “never been given the opportunity to present his case in front of an immigration judge” is putting his hopes in the United States’ highest court in the land to intervene in a deportation that he claims could mean certain death.
Joaquin Ledesma-Conchas, 43, a Mexican national who’s lived in Southern Oregon for more than 25 years, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in after the Board of Immigration Appeals refused to reopen and reconsider a deportation that originates in the 1990s.
The deportation would do more than separate Ledesma-Conchas from his four children and the Peachwood Village manufactured home that Jackson County property records show he’s owned with the mother of his children since 2008 — his Tucson, Arizona, lawyers argue that being sent to Mexico puts him at the mercy of violent drug cartels.
Ayala Law Office of Tucson, Arizona, representing Ledesma-Conchas, said in its January petition to the Supreme Court that he “fears for his life in Mexico.”
“His brother has ‘disappeared’ in Mexico, after a conflict with the cartel, and his father has been forced to sell off his livestock due to the cartel,” the filing continues, going on to describe persecution that includes death threats, kidnapping, extortion and disappearances.
In a prepared statement, lawyer Siovhan Sheridan Ayala said her client fears that he’ll “meet the same fate” as his brother.
Ledesma-Conchas, a property owner who’s listed in some public records as “Joaquin C. Ledesma,” is asking the Supreme Court to reopen his case to apply for asylum.
At issue is that there’s no clear standard as to the “exceptional circumstances” that would require the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen his case.
“With no definition or parameters for the ‘exceptional circumstance’ standard, the BIA is unaccountable for their decisions,” according to the petition to the Supreme Court. “This leaves petitioners, whose liberty and due process interests are at stake, at the mercy of arbitrary decisions.”
The BIA, part of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, previously has denied Ledesma-Conchas’ motion to reopen his immigration case as “untimely” based on a 1999 ruling in the case that had gone uncontested for more than a decade. In May of last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the BIA “did not abuse its discretion” in the denial.
Ledesma-Conchas came to the United States in 1992 and was apprehended twice by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s. A judge ordered him removed from the country in 1999 when he failed to appear at a Portland hearing.
“Mr. Ledesma had taken the time and expense to hire an attorney, however the attorney erroneously told Mr. Ledesma that there was nothing to do after missing his hearing,” the Supreme Court petition says. “The attorney was later disbarred due to separate matters.”
His lawyers argue that he’s never had a hearing in the case.
“Mr. Ledesma has never been given the opportunity to present his case in front of an immigration judge,” the petition says. “He presented evidence, in written form to the BIA, but he never presented testimony, which is his right.”
Under a new lawyer’s advice, Ledesma-Conchas has made numerous petitions since 2011 to reopen his case for multiple reasons — including for asylum or to apply for Cancellation of Removal, which is an option for immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years, have good moral character and whose removal would cause exceptional hardship.
His lawyers say Ledesma-Conchas owns his own landscaping business and home, and has the support of his church pastor and his four children — of which one is in the Marine Reserves.
Court records show his criminal history is limited to one driving under the influence of intoxicants case from October 1994, which was dismissed in Jackson County Circuit Court by 1996 after he complied with all terms of a diversion program.
Ledesma-Conchas could still be removed from the United States while his case is pending. An application seeking to hold off on removal proceedings until the Supreme Court petition is resolved was denied Thursday by Justice Elena Kagan, records show.