A 52-year-old man’s deportation Friday after being arrested on a traffic violation in Dickinson thrust Galveston County into the center of an immigration debate that’s intensified under a new administration’s calls for tighter restrictions.

The deportation stemming from a driving-without-a-license charge could be one of the first in the area associated with a traffic violation, a local immigration attorney said.

But attorneys said it could become more common, particularly after memos drafted by Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly, which are awaiting White House approval, appeared to broaden the definition of “illegal alien.”

An attorney representing the man accused local law enforcement of “playing cowboys” and overstepping their authority by arresting a person for what would otherwise be a citation. Federal immigration officials were pre-emptively acting on Trump administration proposals, the attorney said.

The arresting agency, Dickinson Police Department, did not respond to requests for comment. But the county’s sheriff defended the arresting officer and said county jail booking officers followed longtime procedures. Local law enforcement was not attempting to inject themselves in an immigration matter, he said.

A federal immigration enforcement agency spokesman said his agency was following the law.

The situation brought home the immigration debate, with some arguing federal law enforcement had focused its efforts on punishing the wrong people instead of focusing on deporting criminals and urged elected officials to reconsider policies for people who have long histories in the United States.

“If a person has a criminal history, do whatever is necessary,” said Joe Compian, a community activist in La Marque. “But why should a traffic violation be a basis for disrupting a family’s life?”

The arrest

Gerardo Morales-Martinez, of Alvin, was pulled over for a broken taillight by a Dickinson Police officer March 9, officials said.

The officer found Martinez had an expired, invalid driver’s license. Martinez was taken to the Galveston County jail at the police officer’s discretion and booked on charges of driving with an invalid license, authorities said.

After interviewing Martinez, the county jail’s booking department contacted officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said. Federal immigration officials determined Martinez was in the country illegally and placed him under a detainer March 10, documents show.

Martinez, who relatives say has lived in the country for 21 years after leaving Mexico, was deported once before in 2004, according to immigration records. He returned after that deportation to be reunited with his wife and three children, his advocates said. It was unclear whether he overstayed a visa or came into the country illegally.

Monica Martinez, Martinez’s wife, had posted a $1,500 bond, but officials told her that her husband could not be released because he was being held on an immigration detainer, said Sarah Syed of the Deportation Defense Network in Houston.

Martinez was transferred to federal custody Monday and held in a Houston detention center, officials said. His wife and three daughters quickly launched an effort to keep him in the country, hiring Houston-based immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez to fight the deportation.

But late Friday afternoon, his family received a call from him from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where he had been deported, Gonzalez said.

No hearing needed

Immigration authority spokesman Gregory Palmore said the earlier deportation and corresponding order from a judge gave his agency the authority to deport Martinez without a hearing before the judge. He didn’t have details about the previous deportation.

The agency did not weigh the charges brought against Martinez into its consideration, Palmore said. The agency had placed the detainer after being contacted about Martinez and doing an interview, he said.

“I don’t know what happened at the local level before he got to the jail,” Palmore said.

“At the point he entered the Galveston County jail we placed a detainer order. The charge … we don’t go into that level of detail. We’re not trying to try the case.”

‘Playing cowboys’

Gonzalez said the deportation stemmed from local law enforcement’s aggressive policing by booking Martinez into jail on a traffic violation, which he said was done because the officer suspected Martinez of being undocumented.

Gonzalez accused the arresting officer of profiling his client and attempting to act as an immigration official. Martinez had an ID, albeit expired, he said. But law enforcement would likely not have arrested someone for an expired ID if they didn’t suspect the person of being in the country illegally, Gonzalez said.

“They’re playing cowboys like: ‘Yee-haw, we found an immigrant,’” Gonzalez said.

Dickinson’s police chief did not return a call Friday. But Trochesset said it was not that unusual for a patrol officer to bring someone to jail on an invalid license.

“What is he going to do, let someone keep driving without a license?” Trochesset said. “I think it was proper.”

‘Not about immigration’

The county jail followed its long-standing booking procedures by answering a series of questions to determine who an inmate is, Trochesset said. Martinez identified himself as being from Mexico, which prompted them to contact immigration and customs, he said.

“Sometimes immigration picks them up, and sometimes they don’t,” Trochesset said. “This one they picked up.”

Palmore, the ICE spokesman, didn’t expand on the agency’s policy. Immigration attorneys, though, said it was unusual for a person to be detained following a low-level charge.

“We’ve never heard of someone being placed in ICE custody just for driving while a license is invalid in Galveston County,” said Gregory Guarino, a Galveston immigration attorney.

Gonzalez, who tries many immigration cases in the Houston area, said it’s not unheard of for people to be deported on a traffic violation. The number is increasing of late, which Gonzalez attributed to changes in immigration policy. Under the Obama administration there was a priority list for deportations depending on the charges, he said.

Galveston County Daily News Reporter Matt deGrood contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Marissa Barnett at 409-683-5257 or marissa.barnett@galvnews.com.

(46) comments

Cheryl Gonzales

We cannot support half of Mexico and all of Central America. He has bunked here for 21 years. I think he's had a pretty good run.

Cheryl Gonzales

Galveston County Sheriff went out and got one for the Gipper. Now there is one more job open for an American.

Jack Cross

This story pulls at one's heart, was this intended? Why was the fact that he previously was deported buried way down in the story? Why was he deported? is there any other crimes?
If this was a single incident, that's one thing, but when you add a millions children of people who come here had have babies paid at taxpayers expense ,then enrolled in schools by law and not questions asked, we see the strain on especially Texas schools.
And this is happening as the Hispanic school population is exploding at 52 percent.
Hello Robing Hood, you are needed more than ever. Taxpayers are seeing huge appraisals as a result of the Texas Comptrollers office aggressively pushing the Central Appraisal District to change (raise their appraisals). Why??? to get more money to prop up school funding that is a crisis. Folks, we can be a loving charitable country, but we have problem funding schools, roads, healthcare etc. Bringing in the worlds poor can only cause more Americans to become poor. We can never solve the worlds problems by immigration and refugees.These people have to be helped where they live and they need birth control. Look at what this is doing to Americans fighting among themselves creating more problems.

Carlos Ponce

Joe Compian, a community activist in La Marque asks, “But why should a traffic violation be a basis for disrupting a family’s life?”
Joe, returning to this country after being deported in 2004 is a FELONY. That was the basis for his SECOND deportation, not the traffic violation. The traffic violation was just the catalyst to make officials know that a FELON was in this country.. And what's to prevent his wife and kids from joining him in Nuevo Leon, Mexico? NOTHING! THEY are choosing to keep the family apart. His wife should take a note from Gladys Knight, "I'd rather live in his world Than live without him in mine".

Ask yourself, "why was he deported in 2004?"
"The reasons for deportation usually fall into one of the following four categories:
1. The alien was inadmissible when he or she either entered the country or adjusted his status (got a green card), or the alien violated the terms of his or her immigration status.
2. The alien was charged with any of various criminal offenses that result in deportability
3. The alien failed to register with the immigration authorities when required, or falsified documents
4. The alien appears to be a threat to U.S. security."

"8 U.S.C. § 1326, which makes the offense of reentering, or attempting to reenter the United States after being removed or deported, a felony offense. You will likely be permanently barred from the United States if you illegally reenter after a prior removal."
Illegal entry in to the United States is a misdemeanor. Illegal entry into the United States AFTER being deported the first time is a FELONY.
After her husband was first deported Monica Martinez could have petitioned the US government to bring her husband in LEGALLY. See "Bringing Spouses to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents"
By reentry into this country a SECOND time, this may no longer be possible. He's a FELON.

Robert Bracht

Big headlines in the print edition: "Immigration debate hits home after man deported for traffic violation."
More fake news from the local rag. He was not deported for a traffic violation. He was deported because he was illegally in the U.S. -- no other reason.

I think that I have finally had enough of the bias and fake news from the Daily News.

Tomorrow I cancel my subscription.

Kelly Naschke

Robert Bracht....it does make one wonder why we pay for a subscription to only be repeatedly insulted by fake news stories such as this. Kind of funny how Leonard writes editorials about how he isn't the enemy and about honest journalism...and then runs this "story" as a Sunday headline. I dont know if that is irony...or just flat out foolishness????

Robert Bracht

This AM I sent an email to Michael Smith cancelling my subscription. I will miss the local news, but am fed up with the daily aggravation.

George Croix

"The deportation stemming from a driving-without-a-license charge could be one of the first in the area associated with a traffic violation, a local immigration attorney said."

No. He didn't get deported for a traffic violation. He got deported for being in this country illegally.
Evidently, it's possible to get a license to practice law yet still not figure that out....or, worse, deliberately divert from it....there's a word for that.....

"But attorneys said it could become more common....."

That's a good thing for honest citizens and legal residents.

"........particularly after memos drafted by Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly, which are awaiting White House approval, appeared to broaden the definition of “illegal alien.”

It's a shame that "Illegal' has to be 'broadened' to understand what it means?

"An attorney representing the man accused local law enforcement of “playing cowboys” and overstepping their authority by arresting a person for what would otherwise be a citation."

Better playing cowboys than playing the fool...imho....

"The arresting agency, Dickinson Police Department, did not respond to requests for comment."

Perhaps because they know what illegal means?

"A federal immigration enforcement agency spokesman said his agency was following the law."

About time.

Kelly Naschke

Yet another article from GDN written in such a manner as to attempt to sway readers opinion with a liberal bias. Headline of Sunday's paper no less. The article attempted to make the reader feel sorry a FELON. The offending felon snuck into our country not once.....but twice. Amazing how the left can try and put a political spin on just about anything....including trying make you feel sorry for someone that knowingly breaks our laws....MULTIPLE times. Just curious....if the guy didn't have a valid license....do you assume he had insurance? My guess is NOT. So if he leaves a bar....runs down some innocent person in his drunken path.....flees the scene....are we still supposed to feel sorry for him GDN?

Steve Fouga

A sure way to reduce illegal immigration is to make it unpleasant to be here illegally. This sounds mighty unpleasant. Word will travel. IMO, President Trump's most effective executive order is the one ending catch-and-release.

Sure I feel sorry for disrupted families, but there MUST be privileges exclusive to U.S. citizenship. The most important of those is the right to be here.

George Croix

I note that, just a couple weeks ago, we were told by the head of the GDN:
"The wheels of democracy only function when an independent and free press plays a vital role on behalf of the citizens."
Note the word CITIZENS....

But, to be fair, there was nothing at all written about spinning a story to represent a point of view in preference to fact.
All's fair in love, war, and diversion.......

George Croix

The local jails are full of people who have 'disrupted their families' by committing an act(s) that got them tossed in the pokey...
Does the GDN spin machine advocate for turning those folks loose, too.....?

PD Hyatt

Most of your progressives do advocate letting the criminals go without paying their dues. Just look at what Obama did with all that he let go early.... As for the GDN they are like the Washington Post, NYTimes and most of the rest of the media.... They are filled with bleeding heart liberals who hate this nation and do not understand why our founding fathers set it up the way that they did.... They knew that one day our nation was going to be filled with haters of this nation and we needed a way to protect ourselves from enemies with in and from outside of our boundries.... Besides a nation without borders soon ceases to be a nation.... Look at Europe to see what we are going to be going through is a very short while if our nation does not wake up!

Clint Stevens
Clinton Stevens

Yet another example of why it is so difficult to recruit police officers. Police Officer does his job, takes an unlicensed driver off the street and days later is in the headlines labeled a "Cowboy" by an obnoxious attorney looking to make a quick buck.

Let's be clear here, this man was not deported because he does not have a driver's license. He was deported because he is in the country illegally.

Stop deflecting accountability and STOP attacking our law enforcement for doing their job.

George Croix

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, was caught as a result of a traffic stop for having no registration tag on the car he was in.
I wonder if the headline for that would have read..."Bomber Executed for Traffic Violation"......[whistling]

Robert Bracht

Very good comment.

Keith Gray

I hope everyone didn't forget this....http://abc13.com/news/minute-and-half-car-chase-leaves-6-people-dead/251939/

David Doe

To receive a DL you have to submit a SS card and a birth Cert. Where are these folks getting fake SS cards and birth Certs? That in itself is a crime. Illegal is still Illegal.

Carlos Ponce

Ever go to the flea market in Pearland??? They will make you a Social Security Card See : "Fake IDs Openly Made and Sold in New York City"
"It is easy for an illegal immigrant - or a terrorist - to get false documents in New York. The New York Sun did it in about an hour this week, just three days after President Bush promised to tackle document fraud.
Our fake green card cost $100. Roosevelt Avenue in Queens is an open market for the manufacture of Social Security papers and driver's licenses, as well as the valuable green cards that certify permanent resident status.
Despite federal and local law enforcement pledges of investigations, including a sweep earlier this week of the operation where the reporter purchased the card, business is booming."

Carlos Ponce

"To get the Social Security card he needed for his first job in America, all Francisco had to do was go to the flea market on Airline Drive and fork over $30 to a man who was selling them.
In another instance, a woman worked late into the night, painstakingly altering her U.S.-born child's card so she could use it as her own to search for a job.
Others name their newborn children after themselves so they can use the infant's card without having to worry about the name and number coming back as invalid in the rare case anyone checks.
In these and myriad other ways, undocumented immigrants by the thousands each year overcome the chief obstacle to beginning their lives in America.'

Jim Forsythe

Misusing a Social Security number: A maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000. — Making a false claim of resident alien status: A maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000.

Claudia Burnam

And how many of these illegals are using fake documents to register to vote?
E G Wiley

George Croix

Mr. Wiley, there is no election fraud.
It's all a fig newton of the right wing extremists who would deny everybody the right to vote......

Steve Fouga

"And how many of these illegals are using fake documents to register to vote?"

Apparently not enough. Or at least not as many as you thought. [whistling]

Carlos Ponce

If there is only one there would be a problem. But there are more than one. Some websites (such as votefraud.org) think as many as 3 million voted in 2016

Carlos Ponce


George Croix

Clinton won California by over 4 million popular votes.
Her popular margin victory nationwide was 2.8 million.
Take away JUST California, without even bothering with the New York and upper East Coast margins, where the coastal liberals rallied against the Deplorables, and she loses the popular vote, too....
California caters to the same illegal demographic, almost hysterically so, as New York and that general area does.
Absent any way to KNOW for sure, the speculation that illegals in those ultra-liberal areas were aided by virtue of driver's licenses and such to be ABLE to vote, to possibly do so, as there is certainly NO effort made to prevent them doing anything else they want at taxpayer expense, the notion that some were allowed to engage in voter cancellation is just as valid as saying they did not.....both are WAGs.....

Steve Fouga

Come on, guys. Nobody gets an illegal ID so they can vote.

Think about it. You're an undocumented alien, you get an illegal ID, and then run the risk of voting with it? Doesn't make sense to me.

Carlos Ponce

It happens.

Dede Edwards

If he loves this county so much and wanted to live here , then he had 21 years to do the paperwork to become a citizen or at the very least be legal. Anyway he'll be back in a jiffy.

Carlos Ponce

'Anyway he'll be back in a jiffy." Get that wall up quickly!

George Croix

Oh, if only not making sense was the same as not happening......or making sense was the same as happening.....things would be simpler.....
Or not......

George Croix

Illegals ran the risk of illegally entering the country and illegally staying and some of illegally taking benefits from it, but some won't run the risk of trying to vote for people who think what they did was just a grand thing?


Steve Fouga

George, it's just too big a risk to take. You participate in an extremely low-leverage event (1 vote out of millions), while taking a far greater risk than you do when showing your ID for almost any other reason. At a polling place, the volunteers actually match your ID to the precinct's voter registration logs. They check to see that the address on the ID matches your real home address. They check to see that someone with that name and address hasn't already voted. I'm not saying it's literally impossible to get away with it, but you're taking a big chance by even trying.

Also, by your own logic, the most likely place for this to happen is (obviously) somewhere with a large number of illegals -- CA, NY, TX. Why would an illegal risk being detained or even deported to vote in CA or NY, which they know is reliably blue. Or one like TX, which is reliably red.

I don't believe there's widespread voter fraud in the U.S., but if there is it's happening much higher up the food chain. It's not illegals buying fake IDs at flea markets so they can take part in a process that about half of us choose not to participate in anyway, even though we would be risking nothing.

Carlos Ponce

"but you're taking a big chance by even trying." Not really, Talking to these individuals they used to think our laws are a joke. Under Obama they could flaunt their illegal status by even daring to vote illegally. Spanish language media tells them how to circumvent the system. (Me illegal? Look, I'm registered to vote. I voted in the general election. Would an illegal do that?) But thanks to the Liberal media a "fear" has now been growing since President Trump took office, Now it's, "On no, time to return to the shadows!" Notice the number of illegal crossings has decreased since January 20. The word is spreading: There's a new sheriff in town!

Steve Fouga

Carlos, in absence of any proof of widespread voter fraud, I stand by my reasoning.

However, I also agree that President Trump's executive order allowing immigration enforcement to proceed per the laws on the books will have a y-u-u-u-u-g-e impact on people already here illegally, and deter more from coming in. Like I've said before, make it unpleasant to be here illegally, and people will stop coming.

Martin Connor

While i agree with Steve on a few points that they wouldn't normally risk it, i will definitely agree with the notion this election was full of undocumented voters intent on the sole purpose of preventing a Trump win. Trump wining affects their pocket book. The only way they would take the risk of voting and getting caught is the thought of being deported and losing out on American dollars. The grass is greener on this side of the wall. Greener as in the color of money that is.

Carlos Ponce

"A large number of non-citizen Hispanics, as many as 2 million, were illegally registered to vote in the U.S., according to a nationwide poll.
The National Hispanic Survey provides additional evidence for use by anti-voter fraud conservatives and bolsters an analysis by professors at Old Dominion University who say non-citizens registered and voted in potentially large numbers."
Snopes disagrees but cites the author of a study made two years prior.

Steve Fouga

I don't believe it, but if law enforcement does, they should round 'em up and throw 'em out. They have their names and addresses if they're registered. Why haven't they been deported. If I were president, they'd be the first I'd kick out. But, alas, it's not true, is it? There aren't really 2 million illegally registered to vote.

George Croix

Prior to the last election.....prior to it... what big risk was there?
The backlog of illegal alien cases is YEARS in arreers.
The last Admin. called it a 'deportation' to turn somebody caught at the border back the other way....and preferred attending an election fundraiser in Austin over actually going to see the invasion occurring at the Rio.
The last Admin. did zero to discourage 'sanctuary's for illegals, and it's of no small note that those places most commonly, or certainly with the greatest volume, occur in the states mentioned.
Illegals actually caught were given 'show up in court dates' then turned loose IN THIS COUNTRY. Some...some...even flown on commercial flights to eb united with family. The no show's greatly outnumber the shows.
So, what 'risk' is there, other than embarrassment, in the places that cater to and coddle illegal aliens.
You figure that California or New York would invest BILLIONS in illegals then CARE to match voting info.....
Well, maybe........but I'll make it 2 York patties against that likelihood....
Widespread fraud is less important than WHEREspread fraud.
We have seen already that just 500 or so votes can a President make......

I admit though, that my personal faith in people who have already proven themselves to be lawbreakers to now follow laws, especially when there's the potential for more personal gain, is at about a minus 2 on a 1 to 10 scale....
But, that's just me.....
Mr. Fouga, why would an illegal enter a state that's reliably red like Texas....
Because they can......

There it is......

Steve Fouga

"why would an illegal enter a state that's reliably red like Texas"

Well, it's not so they can vote. It's to get a job.

George Croix

Mr. Fouga, it was YOUR contention that it's too risky to take a chance on breaking the voter laws.
My point was if they'll break one law, why not break another....and especially in a much less 'sanctuary' friendly to illegals state like Texas...at least the parts of it as yet still pretty much sane.....
Nobody was talking about jobs.
You are free, though, in this country, to change the subject if you want.....[smile]

George Croix

I thought illegals were not taking jibs from citizens....?
Maybe the answer is to get able bodied citizens perpetually on the dole up off their B hinds and out in the yards and fields....

Steve Fouga

Not changing the subject. It's risk vs reward, George. It's worth coming into the country illegally to support yourself and family. It's not worth voting illegally just to have no meaningful influence on an election. Simple. And now you're changing the subject. I said nothing about illegals taking jobs from citizens, or not.

Are you throwing up a smoke screen because you know you're wrong about this one? [whistling]

Jack Cross

Steve, the people at the polling places are doing their jobs, the fraud ( problem) is not at the polling place it is at the registration and mail in in balloting. There is no way to check who the person is who says who he is. All you need is a utility bill.

Lou Brown

Pulled over for having a broken taillight, driving with an expired, invalid driver's license, in the country illegally, deported, returned again, illegally............yeah, it is the police officers fault.................

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