Julio Maldonado Deported to Peru
Cross-posted at Young Philly Politics.
Julio Maldonado was deported to Peru on Thursday, October 22, 2009, after arriving in the U.S. 38 years ago at the age of 3.
He and his cousin, Denis Calderon, had been victims of an attack based on their ethnicity in 1996. Julio was wrongfully convicted of aggravated assault, incarcerated for a total of 8 years, and then deported.
His family's pleas for justice were ignored by local, state, and federal decisionmakers--except for the convicting judge, Judge Gregory Smith, who actually vacated his own verdict after an evidentiary rehearing. That decision was appealed by the District Attorney's office and overturned. A jury of Julio's peers also found him not guilty of the murder of one of his attackers. So how then was Julio locked up for so long and deported, when the convicting judge (in the aggravated assault trial) and the jury (in the murder trial) both decided he was not culpable?
When it came to wrongfully convicting, imprisoning, and deporting Julio, prosecutors and the Department of Homeland Security zealously worked to prevent a just result. When it came to acknowledging that a mistake had been made and families would be torn apart, everyone's hands were tied, from prosecutor Seth Williams to Governor Rendell (mayor of Philadelphia in 1996, now with the power to pardon an egregious error that occurred on his watch) to Thomas Decker, director of Immigration Customs and Enforcement in Philadelphia, to Janet Napolitano, head of DHS.
The case has broader significance, as Seth Williams will likely be Philadelphia's new District Attorney. He will have to decide, along with the mayor and police commissioner, whether to continue along Philadelphia's current track of close cooperation with ICE to target immigrant communities. Currently, Philly PD is routinely arresting Latin@ immigrants for minor traffic stops and turning them directly over to ICE, or actually joining ICE on home raids. This is in direct contravention of Mayor Nutter's expressed desire to make Philly an immigrant-friendly city. It is hard to be friendly when the immigrant community is terrified of the police, which is working hand in glove with the local ICE contingent to deport every last one of them.
Seth Williams didn't lift a finger to undo the damage he had done to Julio Maldonado and his family, despite repeated promises to the family. At least, we have no evidence he took any favorable action.
Will Philadelphia's elected officials side with the immigrant community, or with Lou Dobbs and others who want to see immigrants chased out of the U.S.? Right now, they are saying one thing and doing another.
[Image: Democratic candidate for District Attorney of Philadelphia, Seth Williams.]