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Man To Be Deported For Marijuana Conviction Twenty Years Later

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
All Tiffany Nelson wants is to have her husband and the father of her two young daughters back at home. Since a judge ruled that can’t happen, the 38-year-old mother is preparing to sell nearly everything her family owns and move to a country she has never seen so her family can be together.

If the situation sounds complicated, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For months, Tiffany said, she has been trying to navigate a tangled web of government agencies, mainly offices within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It all began March 21, when federal officials came to her house, shackled and handcuffed her husband, and took him away.

"I feel totally abandoned," Nelson said Wednesday sitting at her dining room table. The Maine native added, "I went to my country trusting that they were going to help us."

Her husband, Rueben Nelson, 50, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States in 1983 with a green card. A few years later, he had a run-in with the law in New York and was convicted of drug-related charges involving marijuana.

Rueben was arrested, paid a $1,000 fine and served 10 days in jail.

Now, about 20 years later, the mistake Rueben made as a young man is haunting him and threatening to tear his family apart, Tiffany Nelson said.

"Rueben is a good man who admitted to making mistakes in his past," she wrote in a July 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security. "He has his life together, a great family who loves him and needs him very much."

Tiffany Nelson, a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for more than 17 years, said she has drained the family’s savings and now has thousands of dollars in credit card debt as a result of fighting for her husband.

When Rueben Nelson was arrested, federal officials took him from his home and left the couple’s two children, Mercedes, 3, and Bianca, not quite 2, with Bangor police officers until Tiffany Nelson could leave work.

"They wouldn’t even wait," Tiffany Nelson said.

Spread on the table in front of her is a blue binder filled with copies of e-mails, contact information for organizations that might be able to help, maps of Jamaica, and treasured letters and thank-you cards that Rueben Nelson has sent from prison.

"He sends me thank-you cards," Tiffany Nelson said. "Can you imagine?"

Rueben Nelson was held in a Portland facility until being taken to Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., where he now awaits deportation.

"They have my husband in with bad people," Tiffany Nelson said.

She hired an experienced immigration attorney from New York and made three or four trips to visit her husband with the children, and additional trips for court proceedings.

"Basically, it cost me a fortune and did nothing for him," she said.

The judge denied Rueben Nelson’s bail requests and has ordered that he be sent back to Jamaica.

The last change to immigration law, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, instituted mandatory detention for any immigrant labeled an aggravated felon.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office for Immigration Review confirmed that there was one charge against Rueben Nelson listed on the deportation order, stating that he qualified for deportation because he was convicted of an aggravated felony.

"We tend to call that the kiss of death," Beth Stickney, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland, said Thursday.

Shari Moidel, Rueben Nelson’s New York-based attorney, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon, and details about his New York conviction nearly two decades ago were not immediately available.

But Stickney explained that a number of crimes, from shoplifting to drug possession to assault, can be considered aggravated felonies depending on how they are classified in the state where the crime occurred.

She added that the "mandatory detention can often push people to not pursue the legal avenues that are their right to pursue."

Also in the reformed law, many crimes not previously considered deportable offenses were made so retroactively.

"A person could be deported for something that happened decades ago," Stickney said.

She noted that enforcement and the number of deportations increased after the 1996 reformation, and jumped up again after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Being married to a U.S. citizen also doesn’t necessarily help.

"Depending on what the criminal conviction is, that may be worth absolutely nothing," Stickney said.

Instead of continuing to fight while Rueben Nelson sits in federal prison, which could take months or years, the couple has decided to move their family to Jamaica.

Once there, Rueben Nelson will be a free man.

Mercedes and Bianca are too young to understand what has happened to their daddy or why they have to sell most of their toys and move.

When asked, Mercedes tells others that her daddy is "in immigration." Bianca carries around a photo album with pictures of a recent family vacation. And both girls now sleep in their parents’ bedroom to be near their father’s pillow.

During visits to the prison, there was no satisfactory explanation for why their father had to stay behind a sheet of glass and could talk to them only using the telephone.

"They don’t understand why they can’t touch him," Tiffany Nelson said. "It’s more traumatic for them to see him behind glass on a telephone. They cry all the way home."

The devoted father calls his family every day, which costs $17 each time since the Wyatt prison is a private for-profit operation that federal officials use because other facilities are full.

The family’s June phone bill was $887.

"Even though they talk to him on the phone, they just don’t understand," Tiffany Nelson said.

Rueben Nelson used to work at LaBree’s Bakery in Old Town, but quit his job to take care of his daughters. A letter from the company in support of him was tucked into Tiffany Nelson’s binder. There also was one from the Eagles Club, a fraternal organization Rueben Nelson belongs to.

Without her husband, Tiffany Nelson has had to rely on friends, neighbors and family to help care for the children while she is at work.

"They just can’t help you every day," she said. She apologized for the condition of her house, explaining that she’s in the middle of packing and was expecting the "barrel man" to come this weekend.

Items have to be shipped to Jamaica in barrels that cost $30 each and can hold 300 pounds apiece. Each barrel then costs $90 to send and customs agents in Jamaica determine what you pay to pick up the barrels once they arrive.

"The laws stink if you want my candid opinion," Stickney said. "This kind of situation is unfolding every day. I don’t know if it’s dozens, I don’t know if it’s hundreds, but it’s happening all the time."

Kevin Kelley, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, said the senator’s office is aware of Rueben Nelson’s case and has been and will continue to work with the family.

"It’s an unfortunate situation," Kelley said.

Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She previously has said that her priorities for immigration reform include strong border security provisions, in addition to a system that ensures individuals who are in the United States illegally are not treated the same as those who followed the law to enter the country.

Immigration recently was brought to the forefront of politics and continues to be an issue nationwide.

Officials from the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office wouldn’t comment on Rueben Nelson’s case, but referred calls to the New England regional office.

So far this year, more than 20,000 arrests have been made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to New England spokeswoman Paula Grenier.

"He is in our custody pending removal," Grenier said, adding that she couldn’t confirm his date of removal for security and safety purposes.

She wasn’t familiar with the specifics of Rueben Nelson’s case and said, "It’s so difficult to tell exactly what happened. Our role is to enforce a judge’s order."

Had Nelson not brought attention to himself by applying for a new green card, his situation might have gone unnoticed, but likely he would have been found eventually, according to Stickney.

"At least for a time he would have been fine because they’re focusing mostly on keeping up with current convictions," Stickney said. "[But] the process inevitably would have happened."

For Tiffany Nelson, it’s now a matter of getting her husband to Jamaica as soon as possible so that she can follow with her daughters. Rueben Nelson’s family has given the couple some land in Jamaica to eventually build a house, which is expected to cost about $50,000.

"Basically, I’m just begging that they send him back soon so we can move on with our life," Tiffany said.

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: Bangor Daily News
Author: Aimee Dolloff
Contact: Bangor Daily News
Copyright: Bangor Daily News
Website: Husband's deportation forces wife, daughters to move to Jamaica


New Member
all they do is ruin families, this is ridiculous, the U.S war on drugs is ridiculous.
this just makes my heart hurt, and realise what this world is really comming to.


New Member
Oh My God! Why do we just sit back and allow this kind of BS?!!? Homeland Security my ass! Have we forgotten the bill of rights? It was never meant to be used as toilet paper by a bunch of power hungry whack jobs! My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. I hope peaceful days spent together come soon for all of you!
Kindest Regards
Andy R
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