Marylander Manny Schoemaker faces deportation over mistakes made as a teen

(Manny and Aradia asleep. Courtesy photo)

If you ever have an occasion to speak with Manny Schoemaker, you would never guess that he was born in Paraguay.  The Laurel, Maryland electrician has lived in this country since he was only four.  But his legal status as a resident alien, combined with a decade-old crime, are enough to have the hardworking husband and father of two facing deportation.  And while an immigration debate continues to drag on in Washington and pundits passionately argue language, borders and culture, Manny Schoemaker and his small family are left to twist in the wind.

Schoemaker’s present trouble began last winter when he and his wife, Angela Lantry, returned to Florida from a short vacation.

“In January,” Lantry explains, “Manny and I took a weekend cruise to the Bahamas. When we got back to Miami, Manny was detained by immigration officials.  Evidently, a bad decision he made when he was eighteen is considered to be a crime ‘involving moral turpitude’ and grounds for detainment and deportation.”

Angela and Manny (Coutesy Photo)
Angela and Manny (Coutesy -photo)

Schoemaker’s bad decision?

He, along with several of his then-teenaged friends, tried to take a golf cart from the Hobbit’s Glen golf course in Columbia, Maryland on a midnight joyride. When they were caught, Manny had some pot in his possession; one of the other boys had a BB gun.  Manny’s compatriots all received probation before judgement while he, the only non-citizen in the group, served six months in the Howard County jail for breaking and entering, and for committing a 4th-degree burglary.  When Schoemaker was arrested he had no idea that this tomfoolery could someday affect his immigration status.

After being questioned upon his arrival from Bermuda,  Miami Customs and Border Patrol officers confiscated his green card but allowed Schoemaker to return to Maryland and scheduled a deferred inspection for April 11, 2013.  When he appeared for the April 11th hearing at BWI airport, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials ordered him confined to the Worcester County Detention Center; three hours away from his wife and children.

“I’m a U.S. citizen and never thought that the man I loved and the father of my two beautiful daughters could be taken from us,” said a shaken Lantry.

Angela and Manny (Courtesy photo)
Angela and Manny (Courtesy photo)

Moral turpitude is a legal construct which refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.”  The term first appeared in U.S. immigration law in the 19th century.

The concept of moral turpitude could strike most people as vague and amorphous.  Even the U.S. Department of Justice’s own Criminal Resource Manual (CRM) admits, “The term ‘involving moral turpitude’ is difficult to define with precision.”  Traditionally, it has been described as an, “act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”  The CRM adds, “(A) challenge to this designation as being unconstitutionally vague has been rejected.”

Shoemaker’s trouble comes at a time when immigration issues are headline news.  While Congress is debating reform measures, the public is perplexed by the seemingly contrary actions of the Justice Department and Homeland Security.  It sees people like Schoemaker singled out and slated for deportation hearings, while Tamerlan Tsarnaev and others implicated in the Boston bombing were left free to wreak havoc, and while Homeland Security was issuing orders to release thousands of illegal immigrants.

Schoemaker was released after a week in the Worcester County Detention Center.  No reason was given for the abrupt emancipation.

James Montana, an attorney with Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C. told the Baltimore Post-Examiner cases such as Schoemaker’s, “are much, much harsher than the public realizes.”

“A conviction is a conviction.  A plea bargain is a conviction.  It all comes back to haunt you.  A criminal record involving moral turpitude will often prevent immigrants from entering the country.”

Montana said that surrender of a green card is routine while the case is pending.  One form of relief is receiving the green card back.

Manny and baby Aradia (Courtesy photo)
Manny and baby Aradia (Courtesy photo)

Lantry cited what she described as Schoemaker’s “horrific” upbringing as being the reason he fell in with, “a bad crowd.” But she stresses that after serving time for his conviction, Schoemaker endeavored to turn his life around.  He earned his GED, found a good job, and met and fell in love with the high-spirited Lantry.

“Manny wanted to be able to provide for his family, so he put himself through trade school to become an electrician.  He wanted to work in a field that would help support us and help preserve a healthy environment for his little girls, so he got a job installing solar power systems for homes and businesses in Maryland.  Most of all, Manny wanted to give his family the kind of home he never had.”

“We went from a family who was self-sufficient to one where we would be a burden on society. My husband was incarcerated at taxpayers expense; he wasn’t working, so he wasn’t providing for our family or paying taxes.  Our health insurance was covered by his job, so losing that would mean going on Obamacare.  Food stamps, public housing, the list could go on.”

Given what he’s been through, some wonder why Schoemaker would want to stay in the United States.  His employer has been very supportive, but he has lost all of his vacation time.   And he also has had his faith in the American justice system shaken.  Schoemaker told The Baltimore Post-Examiner that the process is too arbitrary.   “They didn’t look at me as a person.  They just looked at me on paper and decided to detain me.”

Though he has surrendered his green card, Schoemaker still has his Paraguayan passport.  But the Laurel resident knows if he leaves the country now, he will forfeit his case.

“It is very difficult to get a visa once you have left,” noted James Montana.  “If you leave (under circumstances such as this), it’s an uphill battle to get back.”

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching part of Schoemaker’s saga is contained in the letter his sister, Fatima, wrote in support of Manny while he was being held in Worcester County.  Addressed, “To Whom it May Concern”, Fatima’s letter detailed their childhood flight from Paraguay, after which she and Manny settled with their father in Columbia, Maryland.  Fatima stated that their father was wildly abusive, both verbally and physically, often screaming at Manny for no reason while punching his face and kicking him in the ribs.  This childhood abuse, combined with parental neglect, eventually drove Manny into the company of a troublesome crowd.

“As you weigh your decision about whether or not to force him out of the only home either of us know – which would uproot yet another generation of our family – please remember that this is a man who singlehandedly molded himself into the hard-working husband and father you see before you.  And please consider he did so against all odds.”

Schoemaker is due back in court July 22 for a preliminary hearing at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration field office in Baltimore.  Preliminary hearings are conducted either in person or, in cases where an individual is being detained, by video camera hook-up with the detention center.  Although Schoemaker will be at this hearing in person and represented by a qualified attorney, there is no right to council in an immigration case.  All hearings, however, are open to the public.

While there are no guarantees, Montana says, “If a person is here legally and has a green card, that allows more room for the judge to exercise discretion.”

Should Schoemaker ultimately lose his case and be deported, he will be taking his wife and children with him.

“Manny and I both work, we pay taxes, we vote and we love our country,” said a visibly frustrated Lantry. “But if Manny is deported, we’re moving the family to Paraguay.  I thought this country was about giving people chances, not taking them away.”

Added Schoemaker, “It just seems like the laws weren’t well thought out when they were written.  I understand the policy.  They don’t want bad people to come into our country.  Still…”

(UPDATE:  Manny Schoemacher’s July 22 preliminary hearing has been postponed twice.  The new hearing date is Thursday April 16, 2015.   The Baltimore Post-Examiner will continue to follow this story.)


2 thoughts on “Marylander Manny Schoemaker faces deportation over mistakes made as a teen

  • May 16, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    This is a terrible decision. Common sense seems to be at a loss is this country anymore. Millions of illegals coming in from Mexico and allowed to stay and work and in some cases given special driving licenses. Here we have someone, who does something a good many teens do as pranks. Parents should have been the ones to inflict the punishment and put him on the right path, along with growing up and realizing what he did was wrong. He did not use a weapon or inflict fear or harm on anyone. He should not have to go through all of this. He has lived a better and more respectable life then a lot of citizens I have known. Shame on our representatives.

  • May 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Very well written! Manny is an amazing father, husband, & friend and a very hard worker. This family doesn’t deserve this at all. If this country had any heart at all they wouldn’t send any of them back to Paraguay. They would keep they citizens that are worth having in this country here! I have known Manny and Angela for almost a decade and until this case came about I never had a clue that Manny wasn’t from America! I consider them to be very close friends!He is more American than most people that I know! There are so many American families that don’t put out half of what their family does for our community and society. I pray that the American government does not up root this happy American family. There are many more bad people that the American government should after like the Boston bombers, rather than the hard working, good hearted, American family man Manny.

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