Hempstead Village police arrested Julio Canas as a member of the MS-13 gang and for being in the country illegally. Eighteen months later, he remains in detention awaiting resolution of his case.
His experience could be a road map for the cases against 30 people arrested on Long Island as undocumented immigrants in the past week in a controversial crackdown on alleged members of MS-13.
Canas remains in holding at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., even after winning an asylum claim that argued he would be persecuted by Salvadoran government policies and death squads targeting gang members in his homeland.
His victory in May 2004 was appealed by federal prosecutors, and it has yet to be ruled on because there are no time limits for swamped immigration appeal courts.
Still, in the Long Island arrests, family members and attorneys for the accused are indicating they will fight deportation orders. Under federal law, people placed in deportation proceedings stand before an immigration judge who decides eligibility for any asylum or relief claims.