The distraught family of 32-year-old undocumented immigrant Adi Zinder says he's been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since fall of last year, when ICE officers swarmed their Woodland Hills home at 4 a.m. and handcuffed Zinder on the spot.
Zinder, who was brought to America by his parents when he was about 10 years old, has been locked up in the Mira Loma Detention Center ever since, says his sister-in-law Carolina Landazuri. (That center is run by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which could explain things.)
She claims deputies have since taken away Zinder's kosher meals. "And every time he complained..."
"... they threw him in the hole," she says. In other words: solitary confinement.
Officials at the detention center say they cannot confirm details about specific detainees, and say we'll have to speak to ICE about that. We've contacted ICE for comment.
According to Landazuri, who was there the night Zinder was detained, the family "got a knock on the door" in the wee hours of September 24, 2010. "We saw a bunch of ICE officers. We let them in, because they said they were looking for someone with this address. They just barged in the house -- we didn't know at the time that they needed a warrant."
Once in the living room, Landazuri says the officers sat family members down and started questioning their legal status. Soon, they took Zinder outside -- "and the next thing we hear are handcuffs."
(Reminds us a little of the Bonilla family, slapped with deportation proceedings after ICE raided their L.A. home, supposedly in search of drugs. Guess that kind of treatment isn't just for Latinos anymore.)Both Zinder's sister-in-law and his friend/former roommate Tal Liebrecht say neighbors later told them there had been an ICE roundup.
"We came to find out he wasn't the only one they took that night," says Landazuri. She claims the officers "went around the entire Woodland Hills area -- like a taxi, taking them downtown."
Zinder's application to gain citizenship through marriage -- his I-131 petition -- is currently pending. ICE must confirm or deny the petition before he can be deported. But Landazuri says a new staffer has been assigned to his case whenever the review period is almost up, leaving the application (and the immigrant) in limbo.
The lawyer representing Zinder says he can't disclose any details about his case at this time. However, Landazuri says the family has been promised a verdict on the petition by today. They've heard that before, though -- ever since Zinder's wife, a U.S. citizen, was interviewed for the review process in April.
Landazuri can think of no reason why ICE would hold her brother-in-law for so long. "He has a clean record," she says. "Maybe a parking ticket."
Doesn't exactly sound like the type of violent offender that federal immigration officials -- and President Obama -- have promised they would focus on, going forward, to save national resources and preserve innocent families.
We'll update when we receive word from ICE, or any further updates on Zinder's deportation status.
Update, 2:30 p.m.: Landazuri just sent us the following email.
"We have been discouraged to find out that Adi has been shipped out to a facility in El Paso Texas and the lawyer has informed us that he is enroute to another facility in New Orleans. ... Our family is in sheer chaos right now as we dont know what is going on."
Liebrecht, the detainee's friend, adds that the move will lead to more cross-country transfers and, possibly, deportation.
"I just found out that Adi is en route to New orleans from El Paso, Texas. He's probably on his way to New York before final deportation.
The decision has not been reached yet he has still been moved as if it's a foregone conclusion."
Update, 4:20 p.m.: About an hour after we spoke at length with ICE officials, inquiring about Zinder's case, his family got the call: Zinder is being approved for a green card. Sure, the decision comes 14 months into an ordeal that seems to have been cruel, unusual punishment -- but the end is near. "We're crying, shouting, tears of joy," says Liebrecht. "Now we just need to find out where he is."