As SB 1070 Heads to Court, a Father’s Case Reveals the Larger Problem

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A New York father faces deportation to Argentina, likely because he went into diabetic shock and had the poor luck to be met by police officers who arrested him, instead of sought aid for him. His case is shining a new light on the Obama administration’s deportation policies and the president’s attempts at striking the difficult balance it has claimed as its enforcement strategy.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is readying itself to hear the Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 this week. The law was the first of its kind to authorize law enforcement officers to question and detain anyone who appeared to be undocumented, and has since spawned a series of copycats around the country. As the Obama administration has tried to rein in states who are creating their own immigration laws, it’s also been fighting a separate political battle to get a hold on its own deportation agenda. It’s not working out so well, experts and activists argue, and Claudio Molina’s case is an apt example of its challenges.

On a March afternoon after taking medication for diabetes, Molina dropped off his wife and son at a Wal-Mart. The Brentwood resident, who is undocumented, was going to wait while they did some clothes shopping. Instead, he left the store without telling his wife. According to his daughter Ludmila, Molina has no memory of what happened next.

A witness at a nearby novelty store would later call an ambulance three times to report that a man parked in a car outside a store appeared unwell. Molina had gone inside the store, according to his attorney Lev Lewin, spoken to some people, and went back outside to his car, where a witness found him shivering and struggling with his breath. The witness tried to check on Molina, and made several calls for an ambulance. An ambulance never arrived, however.

Instead, Suffolk County police officers responded to the call, and would later arrest Molina on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. After his arrest, Molina was referred to immigration authorities, who began processing his deportation.

According to Molina’s attorney, he has no recollection of having been offered a breathalyzer, and no labs were run to confirm whether he was intoxicated. He had been taking Metformin, a medication to treat his diabetes, and likely suffered an incident of lactic acidosis, his attorney said. Despite being clearly unwell, he was sent to prison rather than a hospital. He was transferred to immigration detention in April, and faces imminent deportation as early as this week, his attorney said.

The Suffolk County police department and district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for confirmation of details.

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