When Jesus Silva appeared in immigration court this afternoon for his first deportation hearing, Judge Dustin Pead asked him why his American wife of five years had not begun the process of securing him a path to legalization during their marriage.
"It always been an issue between me and her," Silva said. "Her mom says to her, 'It's a bad idea to fix me,' 'cos then she loses control over me."
Silva is a 26 year old-artist and father of three who featured prominently in this week's CW cover story, Tainted Saint. He is one of a number of alleged victims undocumented youth advocate Sonia Orozco extorted for cash. The District Attorney's office filed several new felony charges against Orozco last week, one of which cited Silva as a victim. As such, Silva may be eligible for a U-visa, which provides a work visa and path to citizenship for crime victims willing to testify. For now, however, his attention appears focused on fighting to stay in the United States.
After wife Cristina alleged that Silva assaulted her in May, he was arrested and held in Salt Lake County Jail. The aggravated assault charge and two domestic-violence-related charges were subsequently dismissed following Cristina's failure to appear in court, but since Silva is undocumented and has had a significant criminal history -- including a DUI, according to Utah records -- ICE transferred him to a Utah County jail.
Silva informed City Weekly that the DUI and other charges were not his, but rather belonged to a man who not only had a very similar name but, bizarrely, the same birthdate. CW passed on the information to ICE, which, after an investigation, acknowledged Silva was correct and changed his status from not being eligible for a bond to placing a $5,000 bond on him.
Judge Pead noted that the bond was "quite low" and that, depending on what he heard at Silva's next hearing on Nov. 7 at 8.30 a.m., he might lower, maintain or raise the figure, or even return Silva to not being eligible for a bond. He said that Silva had "some criminal convictions" in his past, but did not elaborate what they were.
Pead wanted to hear from Silva's wife about the assault allegation. He also told Silva he could bond out at any time.
Silva said he had spoken to his wife and she was willing to come and say the truth. All that mattered to him, he added, was to see his three little children again.
Silva's friend and mentor, Walt Hunter, was the only person supporting Silva at the hearing. Hunter had provided both the prosecutor and the judge with letters from Midvale Mayor Joanne Seghini and the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Valley's executive director Bob Dunn. Those letters extolled Silva's virtues, noting what he had contributed to the state and the club in terms of fundraising, mentoring young people out of gangs and providing a role model for at-risk youth.
Hunter recalled outside of the court stories Sonia Orozco had told him about Silva -- how his mother had abandoned him and moved back to Mexico, how he had slept under the bleachers of a local baseball field, then gone to Holy Cross Ministry in the morning to clean up and get ready for school.
But the absence of any of Silva's family members or friends upset Hunter. The situation of youths like Silva was desperate, he said. They faced deportation to a violent country where they had no roots or connections. To make matters worse, they were not eligible for the Dream Act because of criminality in their past.
"It's all about abandonment," he said. "What's it like to be a kid and have nobody want you?"