Judge throws out deportation case against 'Wilson 4'
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 21, 2005


A judge on Thursday threw out the U.S. government's 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 unlawfully singled out the four for questioning based on their ethnic appearance.

Attorneys for the defendants expect Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to appeal the decision. The unexpected ruling - the judge had hinted in earlier hearings that he wasn't likely to grant any more extensions to setting a deportation date - brought sighs of relief to the four, who exchanged hugs and smiles with their attorneys and others.

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.

The judge on Thursday cited several comments that immigration officials made, including one made to the four youth during questioning. "Maybe in Arizona you don't stand out, but here in Buffalo, you do," the official reportedly said.

In another instance, an immigration official called the school principal, asking that she fax over copies of the four's birth certificates. When the principal raised questions about privacy concerns and the need for such documentation, the federal official reportedly told her, "Look, don't send your illegals to New York."

All four young adults 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.