A Long Beach resident and US Marine veteran, who was held in an ICE detention facility for almost two years, now awaits a decision from the governor on whether or not he will be pardoned and allowed to return home.
After serving two combat tours in Iraq and five years in the US Marine Corps., Jose Segovia Benitez, 38, was scheduled to be deported this week and return to a country he had not been to since he was a toddler. However, while Benitez was on a plane heading for El Salvador this Wednesday, Oct. 16th, he was suddenly stopped and escorted off, his deportation order miraculously halted.
Benitez’s fight is far from over. Granted a temporary reprieve, his lawyers were given five days to file documents in his case while Governor Newsom considers his claim for obtaining a pardon. Though Benitez was honorably discharged, he was convicted of crimes that left him vulnerable to deportation after returning to civilian life.
Among other convictions, including a DUI, Benitez’s latest and longest conviction led him to serve an eight-year sentence due to corporal injury to a spouse. His supporters claim his criminal record can largely be attributed to his combat injuries.
Benitez returned home in 2004 with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, which his advocates maintain were not properly diagnosed or treated until 2011 and led him to self-medicate with alcohol and build up a criminal record. After serving his eight-year sentence, Benitez was met with ICE agents and taken to the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California. This same facility was a target of public scrutiny this September after an unfavorable visit from California Congressional Rep. Mark Takano where he said he witnessed “unsanitary conditions and an apparent failure to adhere to any medical protocols.”
Benitez claims he was denied proper treatment for his conditions, especially his depression and PTSD, throughout his time there. In fact, he was one of fifteen detainees who filed a class action lawsuit against ICE this August, stating they were “subjected to horrific, inhumane, punitive, and unlawful conditions of confinement” and “denied healthcare, refused disability accommodations, and subjected to arbitrary and punitive isolation.”
Benitez’s story has gained overwhelming support, with advocates raising awareness all throughout social media and urging others to contact Governor Newsom on his behalf. Several of them expressed outrage, citing Benitez already “paid his debt to society”.
The governor has not yet provided a statement on Benitez’s case, but in a press release issued by Newsom’s office this Friday, they shared details of the Governor’s decision to grant pardons to three convicted immigrants, effectively stopping their deportation process.
Benitez was not on that list. Nevertheless, his supporters remain hopeful during his last hours before his reprieve is up.
By Jewel Sanchez