The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Pro-immigrant rights protesters marching outside the federal building. Photo by Ryan Lessard.

Immigration limbo
Former informant faces possible deportation

By Ryan Lessard

 It’s a frigid morning in Manchester, just an hour before a short-lived snowfall, and Renato Filippi of Nashua is standing outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Chestnut Street. He and around 50 others are waiting to be let into the building — which they aren’t allowed to enter a minute sooner than 9 a.m. — where they must check in with immigration officers. Meanwhile, pro-immigrant protesters are marching circles around the building with signs calling for “immigrant justice.”

For Filippi, a native Brazilian who came to the U.S. illegally, this has become a monthly ritual that began last September when Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him he would need to leave the country — despite an arrangement he’s had with immigration officials that has allowed him to stay for the past 15 years.
After being ushered into the building, Filippi and George Bruno, an immigration lawyer helping him with his case, place their jackets and belts and any metal items into a tray for X-ray scanning and wait to be led through metal detectors. 
Immigrants like Filippi who are checking in with ICE officials head to the second floor, about 10 at a time, where they enter a small waiting room with chairs, a ticket window and a door. On the opposite wall are three picture frames that have the portraits of President Donald Trump and ICE Director Thomas Homan. On this day, Feb. 6, the middle frame was empty, awaiting a portrait of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was sworn in on Dec. 6 after John F. Kelly left the role to become Trump’s chief of staff.
Filippi placed his sign-in sheet, already marked by ICE officials from previous months, beneath the ticket window, where it was picked up, marked again and returned to him by an officer who instructed him to return again in 30 days.
Living in uncertainty
During that visit, Bruno said they never know if the next time Filippi shows up for his check-in will be the time he’s arrested and again slated for deportation. But a decision by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 20 approved a stay of removal for the duration of Filippi’s appeals process, which Bruno said is likely to last into the fall. This means he can’t be deported until after the process runs its course.
In his late 50s, with white hair, Filippi now lives with his wife (who has a green card) in Nashua. His grown daughter is an American citizen who has a master’s degree in law enforcement and works for the U.S. Secret Service in Boston.
For most of his time in the state, he’s worked as a manager for Morgan Self Storage.
Following the directives handed down by the Trump administration, ICE officials began issuing deportation orders to people known to be undocumented immigrants, including a community of 70 Indonesians living in the Dover area. An exception was carved out for “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came here as children, but all others were reportedly subject to deportation.
Last September, Filippi was told to leave the country by early November.
After he sued ICE and tried to get a court injunction, ICE told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston they wouldn’t seek his deportation after all. So the court denied the injunction on the basis that it wasn’t needed.
In the process, Filippi outed himself as a former confidential informant.
Filippi came to the United States in the late 1990s with a work visa a few times but when he tried to sneak over the border to Texas in 2002, he was apprehended.
Then, he said immigration enforcement offered him a deal; work as an undercover informant to catch smugglers and drug dealers and he can stay in the country indefinitely.
“It was better to stay here than go back to Brazil, so I agree with this business, and they give promise to give work authorization and after that, Social Security, driver’s license, and they say you can stay here forever if you agree with this monkey business,” Filippi said.
They told him it would only take about three months. The ordeal ended up lasting nearly a year.
When they freed him, he moved to New Hampshire. That was in March 2003.
He was required to check in with ICE once that year, then again in 2006. The visits became yearly after that, until last fall, when they required him to return every 30 days.
ICE spokesperson John Mohan said in an email that the agency was unwilling to comment on Filippi’s case.
“ICE does not confirm or deny the identity of confidential informants that the agency may interact with on investigations,” Mohan said. “Since we have no further comment, we don’t foresee making an ICE official available on your inquiry.”
It’s unclear if the stay of removal will have any effect on his required monthly check-ins.
A permanent solution
Still, Bruno and others representing Filippi are working toward a more permanent solution in the form of an S-Visa, which is a type of visa usually afforded to people who assist law enforcement like Filippi says he did.
“At this point, we are trying to reopen his case and trying to press the idea that promises were made to him that he could stay in the United States because of the services that he performed for Immigration and giving them names and details of smugglers and drug dealers,” Bruno said.
He said they have submitted Freedom of Information Act requests with 10 different agencies Filippi may have interacted with. 
He’s also trying to get a hearing on his case at the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia.
To Bruno, the process right now is a mess. 
“Why they put him on a 30-day leash is hard to explain, when they’re giving one-year and six-month extensions to other persons in similar conditions. I think they just want to make an example out of him,” Bruno said.
And as he sees it, an S-Visa would be an easy solution since Filippi should have had that to begin with. 
“And it’s a mystery as to why we’re spending all this energy with the courts, with ICE, with border patrol, when this could so easily be resolved,” Bruno said. 

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