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Jose Robles is shown with his family. A last-minute protest by his young daughters helped save him from being deported. (Robles family photo)

Lakewood family fights to save father from deportation

"Don't deport my Dad," read a sign carried by a 4-year-old girl outside the Tukwila offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thursday.

She and her sisters staged a last-minute protest that helped save Jose Robles from being deported back to Mexico.

Robles came to the U.S. illegally 13 years ago to make a better life for his family. The Lakewood man runs a painting business with his wife and supports his three daughters.

"Any minute I could lose my dad. It's just all going to go to waste, because they're deciding to send him away. It's not fair," 14-year-old Yuritzy Robles told KING 5 Thursday.

Yuritzy and sister Brenda, 19, started an online petition and a Facebook page and showed up to protest outside the ICE offices where their dad was turning himself in.

"They told us he could be detained and probably deported. We were just here to show him that we needed him here and there (are) people to support him," Brenda Robles explained.

Jose has been fighting his case for three years without an attorney, since a 2010 disagreement with a neighbor that resulted in an arrest but no criminal charges.

After several appeals, "This was kind of like the final leg in his journey. He was worried he would be deported to Mexico today," says Sandy Restrepo, an immigration attorney now representing Robles.

After being targeted by ICE, Jose applied for a Cancellation of Removal, which immigrants become eligible for after 10 years in the United States.

"He was denied, although he's been in the country for 13 years. The judge found that he didn't prove that his children would suffer hardship if he was deported," Restrepo says. "He didn't know what documentation to show, he just showed up in the court and said 'My family is going to suffer if I'm deported.'"

Brenda Robles and her sisters say loud and clear: Having their dad stay with the family is vital.

"I have two younger sisters. The youngest is 4. She's very attached to him, for her emotionally, it was very important," says Brenda. "The other is just starting high school. We need him here for every kind of support."

Friday afternoon, it appeared that ICE may have listened to all the callers, protests, and signs supporting Jose.

"Just five minutes before you called, I received a notice from his deportation officer saying they have granted him a stay of removal, which means they are going to stop the deportation for a year," said Restrepo.

"He has a year to get back into court and we can reopen his case and apply for a cancellation, which will then give him a path to citizenship."

Brenda told The Ron and Don Show that Jose's family is ecstatic.

"I am super excited and really thankful to everyone who showed their support. It was really helpful and we are really grateful."

Restrepo says many families live in fear of what the Robles are going through.

"They are one of millions right now that are currently fighting to keep their families together. They have been in the country for a very long time, they've established their life here, they work hard and pay taxes."

Restrepo argued that a quota system for ICE officers is responsible for harassing law-abiding families like the Robles.

"They are bringing people in because they have numbers they have to meet. Obama has to show that he's tough on immigration so we can get some type of reform. But unfortunately what ends up happening is a lot of families get put into the deportation process that don't need to be."

I asked Brenda what she would say to someone who argues a law is a law, and her dad Jose needs to face the consequences of being in the U.S. illegally?

"I know a lot of people say that. But they should be thinking: What if they're just here looking for a better life for their families? What if my family was in that situation? What would I like? Support from people, or just getting kicked back to a country where it's not safe to be?"

Libby Denkmann, Ron & Don Show Producer
Libby Denkmann is producer of KIRO Radio's The Ron & Don Show (weekdays 3-7). Libby is always on the run - literally.
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