The family of a Waukesha father of four detained by immigration agents for being in the U.S. illegally is appealing to the federal government to release him.
According to his attorney, Franco Ferreyra was taken into custody at the immigration office near Broadway & Knapp on Monday. He's now being held at a federal government facility in Dodge County.
Ferreyra's lawyer said the 29-year old has a clean record. He was cited for OWI in 2013, and late last year received a citation for driving without a license.
Attorney Matt Luening said Ferreyra paid the fine and, following the resolution of the case, met with immigration officials in February to discuss the possibility of him obtaining legal status.
Luening said he and Ferreyra initiated that meeting after immigration agents came to Ferreyra's home.
Luening said the two sides met again on Monday, which is when Ferreyra was detained.
"They're within their rights to do that, but it would’ve been nice to have a little compassion and a little flexibility with somebody who does not have a criminal record," the lawyer said.
He said there's been no timeline given for when Ferreyra might be deported.
But U.S. law typically requires the proceedings for removing someone from the country be carried out as expeditiously as possible.
Luening said he has filed an application for asylum on Ferreyra's behalf, though he did not discuss the specifics of why his client may be eligible for asylum.
Luening said Ferreyra and his family came to the U.S. from Argentina in 2001. He was 13-years old at the time.
The family decided to stay in the country after their visitation rights expired.
By doing so, Luening acknowledged they forfeited their ability to appeal deportation down the road.
According to the U.S. Department of State, which runs the Visa Waiver Program, "If you enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you are not permitted to extend your stay in the United States beyond the initial admission period."
Luening said he plans to appeal in federal court.
"Can someone at 13 years old accept the fact that they’re giving up right to fight against deportation, should that happen in the future? I don’t think that’s quite right," Luening said.
Meanwhile, Ferreyra's four children, ex-wife, and sister, are all left in limbo.
"It’s heartbreaking," said his sister Carolina Brumfield. "It’s very emotional."
Brumfield said she and her brother "no say" into their parents' decision to remain in the U.S. illegally and should not be punished for it.
"This is his life, this is his world," she said. "He really doesn't know Argentina anymore."
Luening thinks Ferreyra would be eligible for legal status under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival, or DACA program, should the federal government begin taking new applications.
However, a spokesperson for ICE said immigration laws must be applied uniformly, and the guidelines for the Visa Waiver Program are clear cut.
ICE issued the following statement on Ferreyra's detainment: