Published Date Written by Bob HigginsAnthony Crocock of Kennebunk is mounting a petition to stay in the United States.
Back in 2004, the Ireland native checked a box on his I-9 forms to obtain work with the Saco Fire Rescue. He was a skilled paramedic, and had previously found an opening on the Kennebunk Rescue.
Knowing his work authorization was running out, he applied for an extension to his visa and after months of working with an immigration lawyer to extend his visa to continue working with Kennebunk Rescue, he was told that no visa extension would be coming, and that “paramedics did not come under the heading of ‘skilled’ workers, and there was not a need for this type of worker.”
Things don’t always work out as planned but he kept working for the Kennebunk Rescue, as an unpaid volunteer. He thought it would all get sorted out, eventually.
In the meantime, there were bills to pay and a family to support. He applied for a job on the Saco Fire Department, and checked the box on the I-9 form marked “U.S. National,” thinking that is what his status would be when he married the woman he was engaged to at a later date.
“What they are asking me to do right now is to prove a negative,” Crocock said in an interview Wednesday. He stated that he was arrested at his job on Saco Rescue, taken to the Immigration office in South Portland and interviewed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents (ICE) in 2005. The interview went back and forth at the time, and the agent in charge asked him to sign a statement which had the words U.S. Citizen on it.
When Crocock argued the point, stating he was claiming to be a national, the agent told him “U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, it's all the same thing on paper.” The agent in charge allegedly told him to “trust me” and sign the form. In a written explanation Wednesday, Crocock elaborated that “the Agent had been very courteous and polite up to this point so I signed the statement stating that 'I am trusting you.'”
Crocock claims that the interview was taped, but efforts to obtain that tape have been fruitless. First, it was “not working that day” and since he had found out that the interview was “probably taped over.”
“After my questioning I was brought to the Cumberland County Jail where I would remain for the next four days until I was released on bail. I remained on house arrest for the next six months until my Federal Court case was concluded. I pleaded guilty to the charge of a ‘false attestation on Employment Verification Form’ in that I checked a box on an I-9 form claiming that I was a U.S. citizen or National. I was placed on one year of Probation and was given a fine of $500.00. I fully adhered to the conditions of my probation and completed it without fault,” said Crocock.
During this time he married Heather Hill. She applied for all the appropriate extensions and marriage permissions, but elements of his federal case were still left hanging. Essentially, Crocock was charged in Immigration Court with the same crime that he had already paid his fine, served probation time and completed.
The case took an odd turn. “The Judge found me removable as both an overstay and having a crime of moral turpitude but I could have received waivers for these. It is important to note that the Court expressly stated that: ‘If the Court had to reach the issue of the waiver under212(h) the Court would find that he was eligible for the waiver and that there would be substantial hardship on his wife.”
“But to my dismay I did not receive the waivers as I was found removable on the grounds that I could not prove that I had not claimed to be a U.S. citizen. At no time has the U.S. government prosecuted me on a false claim to U.S. citizenship, but in immigration court I was requested to prove that I had not done so. In layman’s terms, we’re not saying you claimed to be a U.S. citizen but prove to us that you didn’t, therefore putting the burden of proof on me, a burden that can’t be met as I had to prove a negative and isn't that saying I’m guilty until proven innocent.”
“This checked box is the only evidence that the government has, I didn’t have a fake passport or birth certificate. All I did was check a box so I could work in my dream job as a firefighter/paramedic, to help others is my passion. “
Crocock could have gotten a waiver, but the judge didn’t rule in Crocock’s favor because, by a preponderance of evidence, he could not prove the negative. Since then the case has gone through two appeals, and a final deportation order was issued. In July of this year ICE agents came to his residence to remove Crocock from the country.
But his wife with the help of some political pressure managed to get a stay of deportation order issued after 24 days of detention within Cumberland County Jail. Crocock has until Jan. 12 to re-open his case or get another stay of deportation.
Now, a petition effort has been started to keep this joint Kennebunkport business owner here. (http://chn.ge/Od2g4v). Aimed at getting signatures to help get his case reviewed, the petition is an effort to keep his family together.
Since his arrest in 2005, he has worked in the field as a paramedic within the state transferring critical acute patients from smaller community hospitals to the greater hospitals in the area along with transfers out of the state to specialized hospitals in Boston.
To keep he and his wife together, he helped start a Kennebunkport business last year, called Gran’s Chowder House. “If I have to leave, I’m afraid that my wife will lose our business, and we’ll likely lose the house as well,” said Crocock.
He had tried to get Maine’s representatives involved in his case. “(Chellie) Pingree's office has been helping us and without their help we might not have made it this far," he said.
The case could be reopened or reviewed at this point by Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, or by John Morton, director of ICE. “They have some prosecutorial discretion, if they wish,” said Crocock.
Also, a social marketing campaign on Facebook (on.fb.me/S5ItyI) is keeping his cause out in the public eye. In just over 48 hours, he had already garnered over 120 supporters, and over 540 signatures on his online petition.