Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Illegal immigrant goes free in ID mixup (The Tennessean)

Illegal immigrant goes free in ID mixup

By JANELL ROSS • Staff Writer • September 30, 2008

A Davidson County judge dismissed criminal impersonation charges Monday against Jose Estrada, who was arrested in front of a Madison laundry after an officer didn't recognize his Individual Taxpayer Identification Card.

Estrada's case — one of many in Davidson County involving immigrants arrested because of insufficient or suspicious identification — drew attention earlier this month because it emphasized the critical need for some form of identification Metro police will recognize.

After officer James Pearce acknowledged in court his assessment of Estrada's ID as a "fake Social Security card" was not accurate, General Sessions Judge Michael Mondelli dismissed the charge, said Elliott Ozment, a Nashville immigration attorney handling Estrada's case for free.

The Individual Taxpayer Identification Card is issued by taxpayers not eligible for a Social Security number and was used by Estrada, a Mexican national in the country illegally, to pay federal taxes as recently as this year. Neither Pearce nor the district attorney were able to provide evidence that met the standard of a criminal impersonation charge in Tennessee.

"One of the essential elements in the charge of criminal impersonation is that you have to show injury or fraud upon another person and intent to defraud or injure another person," said Ozment.

"None of that was there in this case, and none of that was there in the presentation of this case."

Estrada said he initially pled guilty to the charge in an effort to get home more quickly. Mondelli, who accepted Estrada's guilty plea, agreed to rehear the matter because the district attorney's office joined Ozment in a motion calling for a trial.

In Tennessee, the inability to provide what police consider satisfactory identification can be grounds for an arrest. And, in Davidson County, a trip to the county jail can lead to deportation because the sheriff's office participates in a program that allows it to help enforce federal immigration law.

Estrada still must deal with his immigration case, but no date has been set for him to appear in immigration court.

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