Glenwood leaders send letter supporting immigrant to Homeland Security secretary
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Local supporters of El Salvadoran immigrant Jose Mendoza Turbin, in his case to avoid deportation and continue his studies at Colorado Mountain College to become a nurse, are going straight to the top.
A letter landed on the desk of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week asking that she support the Denver Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in granting Mendoza Turbin a stay of removal.
According to Mendoza Turbin’s Denver attorney, Shelley Wittevrongel, he was contacted by ICE on May 6 requesting that he report for a deportation interview. The interview has since been postponed, and the matter is still pending, she said.
“On May 7, (Secretary Napolitano) received a letter signed by 75 teachers, leaders and community members of Glenwood Springs on behalf of Jose, who testify that granting the stay will result in a significant public benefit to the community,” Wittevrongel said in a press release issued Wednesday.
The letter is accompanied by a “statement of need for nurses” from the Colorado Nursing Center, pointing out a shortage of nurses in Colorado. It goes on to say that there is especially a need for bilingual male nurses.
Mendoza Turbin, 21, applied for asylum soon after he arrived in the country at the age of 17 to escape gang violence.
In the meantime, he learned English, graduated from Glenwood Springs High School last spring, and has gone on to continue his education at CMC with hopes of pursuing a nursing career.
He was facing deportation earlier this year, but earned a reprieve at a hearing in Grand Junction on Feb. 16. An application seeking to reopen Mendoza Turbin’s case for asylum is pending before the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals. But that case is pending ICE’s decision on deportation.
“At age 17, Mr. Mendoza Turbin fled from El Salvador to escape recruitment by MS-13 and Calle 18, the two strongest gangs in El Salvador,” reads the letters to Napolitano.
“Mr. Mendoza Turbin’s case is unique and compelling,” it continues. “The community of Glenwood Springs … needs nurses, particularly bilingual nurses.”
Turbin has been attending CMC in a pre-nursing program, with the help of private scholarships paid by Glenwood Springs citizens.
“The principal and teachers at Glenwood Springs High School and members of the community have invested in this young man,” the letter states. “Mr. Mendoza Turbin has believed in himself enough to succeed, not because he is brilliant, but because he is determined.”
The letter is signed by numerous educators and health care professionals from the area, as well Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen, Glenwood High Principal Paul Freeman and Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt.
Ginny Badger, one of Mendoza Turbin’s high school teachers, said she wasn’t at all surprised by the number of people who signed the letter.
“In fact I had people I don’t even know come up and stop me on the street about it,” she said.
The letter was intended to prompt some sort of action from ICE, Badger said.
“We’ve been waiting for quite some time for some kind of action or direction from ICE,” she said. “We thought it was important to take it to the next level.”
Mendoza Turbin also got support in March from Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, who penned letters to ICE and Immigration Appeals in support of his case.
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