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Yates County farmworker facing deportation

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Gilberto Reyes-Herrera came to the US from Mexico about 25 years ago to escape poverty. Now 51, he has a wife and three children, and according to numerous people, he's an upstanding part of the Yates County farmworker community. But he is undocumented, and now faces deportation.

Last June, Reyes-Herrera was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by a New York State trooper because the driver, a US citizen, wasn't wearing a seat belt. The trooper — going against a 2014 directive by Governor Andrew Cuomo — asked Reyes-Herrera for identification. Reyes-Herrera didn't have any and was detained by Border Patrol. When it was found that he had previously been deported in the early 2000's, he was charged with illegal reentry into the US after removal, a felony.

His situation exemplifies America's broken immigration system and the harsh approach under the Trump administration, Reyes-Herrera's supporters say. Last Wednesday, about 20 supporters held a rally at the Federal Building in downtown Rochester, and many went inside for his court appearance.

Reyes-Herrera has "fallen in a web of failed policies," Carly Fox, an advocate with the Worker Justice Center, said during the rally. "All he's done is contribute to our economy."

In court, an emotional Reyes-Herrera pleaded guilty to the illegal reentry charge and was sentenced to time served. But Judge Charles Siragusa spent time questioning Reyes-Herrera about his life, eventually saying he believes him to be a good man and hopes some "miracle" will allow him to stay in the US.

Siragusa was presiding only over the federal charge of illegal reentry, however, and he has no control over Reyes-Herrera's deportation status. Reyes-Herrera is now being held at the Batavia Detention Center awaiting deportation proceedings. No date has been set for that hearing.

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