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Judge weighing case of Manchester man facing deportation

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 16. 2016 8:46PM
Daniel Onoa Aguirre participates in the Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race in August. (COURTESY)

Manchester resident Daniel Onoa Aguirre will have to wait in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention for another two weeks while an immigration law judge considers whether to release him, his lawyer said Wednesday.

During an early-morning hearing Wednesday, Judge Paul M. Gagnon, a former U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire, peppered Aguirre’s criminal defense lawyer with questions about how a drunken-driving plea was vacated and charges dropped, said Enrique Mesa, Aguirre’s immigration attorney.

Gagnon asked that Aguirre, his lawyer and ICE return in two weeks, Mesa said.

“I think this is a very delicate matter,” Mesa said. ‘I think at the end of the day he is going to make the right call.”

Aguirre, 23, has been in a Strafford County detention facility since September, when ICE picked him up and started deportation proceedings.

His mother brought him to the United States and overstayed her travel visa. He went through local schools; at West High School he was an honor student and soccer player. Shortly after graduating, he received permission to remain in the United States under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he implemented by executive order.

DACA allows illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to remain and work if they stay out of trouble.

But ICE picked Aguirre up several months after he pleaded guilty to driving drunk last March in Bedford.

Late last month, a criminal defense lawyer convinced a judge to vacate Aguirre’s guilty plea, saying Aguirre did not realize the consequences that a guilty plea would have on his immigration status.

Bedford police prosecutor William Thornton then dropped the DWI charge.

Mesa said Gagnon and Department of Homeland Security lawyers asked many questions of Aguirre’s criminal defense lawyer, Adam Bernstein, during Wednesday’s hearing.

Mesa said Aguirre has already paid the penalties for his drunken-driving conviction: a fine, a course, treatment and license suspension.

The only question before Gagnon, Mesa said, is whether he would be a danger to the community if released, which Homeland Security lawyers maintain he would be. Efforts to obtain a statement from ICE on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“I think two months in jail incarcerated has put in perspective that this was wrong,” Mesa said.

Mesa said Aguirre will return to court at the federal JFK Building in Boston on Nov. 30. If Gagnon decides to set bail, Aguirre would have to raise the entire amount. Unlike state criminal courts, a defendant in immigration courts cannot post a bond; he must provide a money order of bank check for the entire amount, Mesa said.

Mesa said Aguirre was upbeat after the Wednesday hearing.

“This is the first court hearing he felt really good about,” Mesa said.

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