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Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The Case of the Illegal Caregiver

Should an ill mother be deprived of her son's care because he is an illegal alien?

Man being pulled away from mother by long arm of Uncle Sam. Deportation case - Alberto Salvador.

Should an illegal immigrant be allowed to stay in the United States to take care of his ailing mother? — Illustration by Edel Rodriguez

En español | Editor's note: Hear Ye! Hear Ye! explores a real court case. Read about it below and decide how you would rule. Then read the actual verdict and let us know whether you agree.

In 2007, Alberto Salvador, a 47-year-old divorcé, was working construction jobs and doing electrical work to make ends meet. He was living with his mother, Flora Ochante, in Orange, N.J., when a notice came to his door. The Immigration and Naturalization Service had discovered that he was a citizen of Peru who had entered the United States in 1996 without a visa. They were charging Salvador with being in the country illegally.

See also: Cost of taking care of Mom and Dad.

At his hearing before an immigration judge, Salvador admitted that he could be legally ordered to leave the country, but he argued for cancellation of his removal because his mother needed him. Salvador's mother was a legal permanent U.S. resident, and Salvador was her sole support. He argued that he did "almost" everything for his 71-year-old mother, especially since cataract surgery had severely impaired her vision. She could not see at all out of her left eye, and her right eye was blurred as if "it's raining." He said she also had kidney stones in both kidneys and took cholesterol medication. She was not on Medicare or Medicaid, and had traveled to Peru for all of her operations. Salvador paid all of his mother's medical bills.

Salvador argued that his removal should be canceled, since his mother relied on him financially and emotionally, and would suffer terribly if he were forced to leave the United States.

Just how sick?

The immigration judge who heard Salvador's case found that Ochante would not suffer any greater hardship than what is normally expected when a family member is deported. He found that she was in good health for someone her age in the United States. He also found that Ochante's daughter Hilda Chavez, a U.S. citizen, could take up the slack after Salvador's deportation. The judge ordered that Salvador be deported back to Peru.

Salvador appealed the ruling to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He argued that his sister has two children, and that she would not have the time or money to take care of their mother as he does. He also took issue with the judge's assessment of his mother's health. Although Ochante could walk, she had multiple physical problems. Salvador said the judge had a duty to look at the total effect of her health issues on her circumstances.

The judge didn't do this, Salvador contended, but simply said she "looked her age," and failed to show that he had understood the totality of Ochante's health problems. Her condition was more serious, and her dependence more extreme than the judge recognized, Salvador said. For this reason, Salvador argued that he should be allowed to remain in the United States and continue caring for his mother.

Should Salvador be allowed to stay in the United States? How would you decide?

Next: Read the verdict. >>

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