Cruel: ICE Set to Deport Man Who Voluntarily Helped Police Solve Murder
Community safety advocates often warn that increased ties between federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police will lead to an erosion of trust in communities, making it less likely that immigrants will report violent crimes to law enforcement for fear of deportation.
Charbel Chehoud, an immigrant who has lived in New Jersey since 1989, certainly could have faced such fear when he came forward to help police solve a high-profile murder. But when a former co-worker confessed having witnessed the crime, Chehoud didn’t hesitate in his decision: to go forward with the information and help a victim’s family find some peace—even though he was in the midst of pursuing asylum in the U.S. and was out of status.
At the time, Chehoud’s decision helped the police close a brutal case that had gone cold. But his involvement in helping law enforcement eventually led to a missed court date that triggered deportation. And now, even though the police and a former prosecutor have asked that he be allowed to stay, Chehoud is in detention and could face a sixth attempt at removal on Wednesday.
Chehoud arrived in the United States fleeing Lebanon, where he says he was persecuted for Christian beliefs, and applied for asylum and married a U.S. citizen, but his relationship dissolved before he could obtain a green card.
After Chehoud helped police solve the 1999 murder case, detectives enlisted his help to work undercover on other cases, says attorney Carla McBeath. Accourding to her, Chehoud was successful in helping police solve numerous criminal cases. During one operation, while Chehoud was with a New Jersey police detective, his car broke down. He missed a court date for his pending asylum case, and was ordered deported.
Chehoud is currently being held in “lockdown” in Essex County Correctional Facility after he resisted boarding a plane five times. He has a pending appeal on the asylum case and fears for his life if deported to Lebanon—just last July, his brother, who reported feeling persecuted, was killed in a suspicious auto-pedestrian accident.
New Jersey police and a former prosecutor have sent letters to ICE asking that Chehoud not be deported in light of his service to the department and New Jersey community, but even though he is not subject to mandatory detention and has a pending appeal, fiancée Veronica Garcia has received a tip that ICE will be attempting another deportation as early as Wednesday.
Essex County Correctional Facility is the subject of a petition started by an immigrant rights advocate in New Jersey that calls for an independent oversight board of the detention center after it was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General in 2006 and 2007 and found to be in violation of record-keeping requirements, as well as a number of other requirements. Chehoud’s lawyer has filed complaints regarding Chehoud’s detention conditions. She states that holding him in "lockdown" more than 48 hours appears to violate ICE Detention Standards Regulations. And that holding him as a level three inmate of a medium security facility, as is Essex County, without a criminal conviction, appears to be in violation.
In response, Veronica Garcia, Chehoud’s fiancée who is a U.S. citizen, has started a Change.org campaign for Chehoud’s release that has garnered more than 7,000 signatures in just a few days.
“I miss Charley so much," she said. "If my fiancée were released from detention, we could continue with his asylum case and our pending marriage. It is saddening to me that someone who is an asset to the community and has helped solve high-profile crimes is being kept away from his family who needs him.