Human Rights

Wisconsin Dad Faces Deportation for Smoking Weed a Long Time Ago as a Teen

The officers arrived at midnight with a warrant for his arrest, but wouldn't answer any questions.

Alex Timofeev's doorbell rang after miidnight one morning in late September. The 35-year-old father of two in Madison, Wisconson left his fiancé in bed and opened the front door. Two officers were outside. They identified themselves as officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Timofeev's first thought was about his petition for permanent residency in the states, which—as he told Madison's Isthmus news—has been in the works for years. 

The officers entered Timofeev's home and told him they held a warrant for his arrest, but refused  to answer any questions. Timofeev was told he couldn't text his boss at the Nakoma Country Club where he works, even to tell him he would not be into work that day. He was not allowed to make any calls, brush his teeth, or use the bathroom, his fiance Elizabeth Vale-Schesch told Isthmus. 

In cuffs, he was driven to the Milwaukee ICE office where officials said he had "abandoned" his citizenship petition and was going to be deported because of marijuana possession convictions in Dane County as far back as 1996. He was allowed to make a single phone call. Then, he was taken to the Dodge County Detention Facility. 

According to Isthmus,Timofeev was born in the Soviet Union but moved to Wisconsin with his family in 1992 at age 14. He has never returned to Russia, and has no friends or relatives there. By 19 he'd been convicted thrice in Dane County for marijuana possession. Each time he pled no contest. 

Davorin Odrcic, Timofeev's immigration attorney, filed a motion in Dane County Court on Dec. 17, 2012 asking the court to vacate Timofeev's pleas from the 90's since at the time Timofeev's attorneys had not informed him that such pleas might result in his deportation. 

Circuit court judge Ellen Berz made the decision in January to side with Timofeev. After 4 months in custody, he was released. 

Then, the Dane County District Attorney (DA) Ismael Ozanne nudged the state Department of Justice to appeal the circuit court's decision. Now Timofeev faces deportation once again. 

Friends, family and coworkers have written letters to the DA's office, reminding Ozanne that Timofeev's days of using drugs ended long ago, and of the fact that he is a hard working chef, friend, and father to his two daughters Sasha, 16 and Kylie, 7. 

For now, Timofeev cannot work, which means he cannot pay the child support he usually pays to the penny. His fiancee, who works part time at a community college, is stuck with all of the household bills, and his legal fees of $60,000 have depleated his elderly parents' small savings.  He is unable to care for his children or his parents, and his wedding to his fiance is on hold, Isthmus reports.

Immigration reform in Congress could potentially provide a fix for Timofeev's problems, but  the federal bill approved by the Senate June 27, still awaits congressional approval.

"This would be a big change," Odrcic told Isthmus.  "And it highlights the fact that Congress is not even contemplating a rollback of the 1996 law that affected Alex's case. It is going in the other direction."

Read more at Isthmus.

April M. Short is a freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness and social justice. She previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. 

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