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A well-known and admired aide in City Council member Letitia James’ office is facing imminent deportation stemming from a minor drug infraction in 1985.
Ray Martin, 44, who is listed as James’ deputy chief of staff — but works mainly as a community liaison — was arrested last week after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided his East Flatbush residence.
“The immigration authorities, in the aftermath of September 11, are destroying families and I’ll be happy when a Democrat is in the White House to reform these Draconian laws that have touched me personally, and what my office has been dealing with for the last five years,” James said.
As this paper went to press, Martin was being held at the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s detention center on Varick Street in Manhattan. He could conceivably be sent to his native Jamaica within another day, according to his attorney, Cheryl David.
According to David and several sources familiar with the story, Martin immigrated with his family — including seven siblings — in the late 1970s when he was 12 years old.
In 1985, Martin was busted for attempting to buy a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty and paid a fine.
Martin went to Barbados in 2001, and upon his return to the country customs agents ran a check. They found the old drug offense and confiscated his green card.
He failed to show up at the ensuing immigration hearing, saying he was sick, and on Nov. 9, 2001 a deportation order issued.
ICE officials did not respond to phone calls concerning either Martin’s case or what prompted them to go to Martin’s residence and pick him up more than six years after the order was issued.
David said in the 1990s immigration laws were tightened where legal resident aliens, known as Green Card holders, were held to higher standards to remain legal in the country and could be deported for even a minor drug infraction.
James said these laws were further tightened following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In order to work for a City Council member Martin needed an official city government background check.
A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the background check would have been done through the city Department of Administrative Services and the speaker’s office, but did not have further information on Martin at press time.
James said Martin has been on her staff since she was elected in 1993, and subsequently he had worked for the City’s Department of Small Business Services under the jurisdiction of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office.
A Department of Investigations spokesperson said the agency only does background investigations on city managers and employees earning over $80,000.
James said Martin had been flagged by the city and he told her he had working on the issue.
“I have been working with authorities on his behalf on a number of fronts around the clock,” said James.
“If it wasn’t for Draconian immigration laws, which have destroyed families and separated children, he could have gone to court and resolved it,” she added.
James said it is important to note that Martin has not been involved in the criminal justice system since 1985.
“He is a solid citizen and loyal employee, and I’m doing all I can to reverse this, and I want to thank everyone who has come forth to provide support in this,” said James.
Sources said that Martin, whose father died about two years ago, helps support his mother, his fiancé and her son, and several other family members.
Tom Montvel-Cohen, who worked in the administration of Mayor Ed Koch and remains involved in several large Brooklyn projects, noted Jamaica doesn’t have a very good social services network for individuals deported back to the country from the United States.
“They are playing with someone’s life here. He has no family there and he’ll be a vagrant. Jamaica has no resettlement money and no social services, and Ray’s no street guy,” said Montvel-Cohen.
“Ray has spent many years helping people get jobs, housing and health care. It’s a shame that our immigration system would treat someone who has given so much to the community in this way,” he said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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