Activist Accused of Smuggling 2 into U.S.
Brothers deported after Phoenix bust
Yvonne Wingett and Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, Apr. 17
A high-profile Latina activist upset over a series of deportations involving young, undocumented Phoenix residents was caught Thursday trying to smuggle two of them back into the United States from Mexico in the trunk of her car, officials said.
Ana Lizabeth Roman de Harvey, 40, of Phoenix, was charged Friday with felony alien smuggling and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to make illegal entry, according to Roger Mair, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in Tucson.
She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the felony charge.
“My client has been an upstanding and well-known activist and member of the Phoenix community for many years,” Tucson attorney Michael Harwin said in a prepared statement. “My client is confident that the United States District Court and the United States Attorney will treat her fairly.”
Ramon de Harvey was upset after a tense meeting with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, city officials and other Latino leaders Monday about a March 28 incident in which at least eight juveniles were sent back to Mexico because they could not prove they were living in the United States legally. The students were dropped at the border in Nogales and sent across to Mexico after they were questioned by immigration agents outside a party in the Palomino neighborhood, a largely Mexican immigrant enclave in northeast Phoenix.
Since then, 19 youths, including 14 minors, have been sent back to Mexico after they were found living in Phoenix without papers, said Russell Ahr, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ahr said all of the youths had gang ties and were removed as part of ongoing efforts to deport undocumented gang members.
At Monday’s meeting, Roman de Harvey and members of the Hispanic community accused the government of engaging in racial profiling.
“She was highly upset about the continuance of these young men being picked up and deported,” said Samuel Esquivel, an acquaintance who attended the meeting. “She asked me if somehow our national LULAC League of United Latin American Citizens) could intervene.”
Apparently, he said, she tried to go at it alone.
Mair said Roman de Harvey appeared nervous when she pulled up to the Grand Avenue Port of Entry in Nogales so U.S. Customs officials asked her to pull over so they could inspect her car. When they opened the trunk, they found two brothers, a 20-year-old and a juvenile, Mair said.
The 20-year-old was identified in court papers as Carlos Morales-Vera. He is being held as a material witness. The juvenile was turned over to officials from the Mexican Consulate to be returned to Mexico, Mair said.
Morales-Vera told authorities that he and his brother had been living in Phoenix illegally and had been removed to Mexico on April 10 after being apprehended by immigration agents, according to court papers.
He said Roman de Harvey agreed to let him and his brother hide in the trunk of her car to help them cross into the United States after she brought them clothes in Nogales, according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Ramon de Harvey came to the United States illegally in her late teens and became a citizen in 1993. Her work with LULAC and the Phoenix Police Department’s Hispanic advisory board has made the native of El Salvador a well-known face in the immigrant community and on the political scene. She has worked to solicit input from the Latino community on public safety issues and to tear down cultural barriers, friends said.
As a former parent liaison for Palomino Elementary, Ramon de Harvey oversaw after-school programs, coordinated volunteers and ensured that kids got home safely. And she taught English to the parents of Palomino students.
“She’s not a smuggler,” said Salvador Reza, who worked with Ramon on Palomino’s day labor center. “She’s an activist that takes her job so serious that she’s willing to risk it. She gets something into her head, thinks it’s for the ‘good of the cause’ and doesn’t care what the consequences are. She follows her heart but just doesn’t use her brain.”
But Reza believes immigration officials are using gang activity “as a pretext . . . to do raids in the barrio,” he said.