Judge throws out case of four who were brought into country illegally as toddlers
July 21. 2005


PHOENIX - A judge on Thursday threw out the deportation case against four young people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were toddlers.
U.S. Immigration Judge John Richardson granted a request to exclude key evidence in the case, ruling that border agents questioned the four based on their Hispanic appearance.
But an attorney for the four, Judy Flanagan, said the case isn't over because she expects the government to appeal it.
Jaime Damian, 20, Yuliana Huicochea, 20, Oscar Corona, 20, and Luis Nava, 21, were on a school trip in June 2002 to compete in a solar-powered boat competition near Buffalo, N.Y., when they drew the attention of immigration officials.
The students wanted to make a side trip to Niagara Falls in Canada. Federal agents looked into their immigration status after a teacher asked whether the students would be allowed to return to the United States with only their student IDs.
All have finished high school, and three of them are either enrolled or have completed college.
If ordered to leave, they would probably have needed to depart within four months.
Three of the students testified that two border officials made racially offensive comments in their presence.
A female border supervisor, whose name none of the students remembered and who wasn't identified in court, had said the students may blend in in Hispanic-heavy Arizona but stuck out in Buffalo, the three testified.
Two of the students testified that a border agent, when planning a meal, suggested that he might eat Mexican food, prompting a smirk from another officer.
Nava said he interpreted the statement not as a genuine plan for a meal, but a comment on the Mexican heritage of the students.
"It was offensive," Nava said. "I cannot believe he said that."
Martin Mahady, the only border officer to testify at Thursday's hearing and then a border inspector, said he didn't hear anyone making racially derogatory comments in the presence of the students.