A woman from Henrico County is now facing deportation proceedings despite being a legal immigrant. Karinna Somoza came from El Salvador when she was seven and has resided since the age of nine in Chesterfield to the present, now at forty-two years of age. She has three American children and an American husband.
Her problem with the new federal guidelines on deportation of illegal immigrants came when she was flagged for the crime of shoplifting $50 merchandise from a department store six years ago. Her sentence for that crime was two years suspended, less three months. Under the new guidelines, her crime is an aggravated felony with the application of a 1996 federal law preventing federal judges from intervening in cases of deportation.
What she hinges now on is the prosecutorial discretion memorandum by the ICE director. The memo provides that ICE officers, agents and lawyers consider the length of a the stay of the individual as a legal immigrant, especially when the subject arrived in the United States as a young child. Other aspects to be considered are the familial relationships and community ties, both in the former country and here in the United States. In Somoza’s case, she last saw El Salvador when she was seven years old and currently she has children and other relatives living right in their town of Chesterfield.
For its part, ICE spokesperson Cori Bassett said that the “prosecutorial discretion” memorandum does not apply to the case. The exception, she says when there are threats to the public safety, and then the directives in the memorandum do not apply. In this case, she continues, the conviction makes her an aggravated felon, thus the discretionary relief she seeks is eliminated.
There are further complications to Somoza’s case. She was previously convicted for a crime involving pawning stolen items, which came from her husband. Her husband stole a flute, a clarinet and an oboe that were all pawned under Somoza’s name. She was convicted for two counts of petty larceny and sentenced to probation. These together with the shoplifting case would make her a three-time offender. She was arrested after an altercation with a neighbor during her daughter’s ninth birthday and when her record was seen, she has been incarcerated indefinitely.