By Denise Dick
The attorney said Immigration should reopen his client’s case.
BOARDMAN — The attorney for a Romanian immigrant believes multiple mistakes by the family’s past legal counsel contributed to the man’s facing imminent deportation.
Virgil Ciprian “Chip” Gilea, 30, a Boardman High School and Youngstown State University graduate, was arrested Dec. 27, 2007, by agents from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although charged with no crime, Chip, who immigrated from Romania at 15, is accused of staying in the U.S. longer than he was permitted.
The office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that the senator sent a letter Thursday to ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C., asking that Chip’s case be given full consideration.
“I am writing to request that you give full consideration to the family’s request to reopen the case as you review Chip’s immigration history,” Brown wrote. “Please review this urgent matter and provide your comments, including your recommendations for any action that can be taken to assist Mr. Gilea in obtaining and securing legal status in the United States of America.”
A letter from Cleveland lawyer Abraham Kay, who now represents the Gilea family, to the senator’s office lists multiple errors committed in Chip’s case by the attorney who used to represent the family.
“Immigration has the discretion to reopen the case,” Kay said. “If they’re not going to use it for him, who are they going to use it for? He’s a good kid. He’s a U.S. college graduate and he’s highly educated. He’s not charged with a crime and he’s always paid his taxes.”
Kay likened the series of errors to an engineering disaster: If there are problems with the concrete upon which a structure is built, the whole structure is unsound. In Chip’s case, there were problems from the beginning.
Among the errors Kay lists in the letter to Brown is the fact that Chip’s attorney in 2000 could have asked for a change of Chip’s resident status by virtue of his being a full-time YSU student. Chip earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from YSU.
“He was a full-time college student,” Kay said. “Getting a student visa would have been virtually a slam-dunk.”
Now, Kay said, Chip could be taken out of the U.S. within days unless Immigration reopens the case.
His parents, Virgil and Minerva Gilea, came to the U.S. in 1990. Chip and his sister, Bianca, followed in 1994.
Chip and his family say he didn’t know about a judge’s 2003 order allowing Chip to voluntarily leave the country. The family’s previous lawyer didn’t tell him. That attorney also filed a motion for asylum three days late, and an immigration judge denied it.
Also in 2001, the family’s former attorney sent some paperwork to the wrong office — and it also was rejected.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said that Chip has remained in detention since his arrest because he is considered a flight risk.
When agents arrived at Energy Development Inc., at the Allied Waste carbon limestone landfill, Poland Township, where Chip worked, he ran. Chip and his father, who also works for the energy company, said Chip was trying to get a cell phone signal to call an attorney.
Kay disagrees with the flight-risk characterization.
“That’s just the silliest thing that he’s a flight risk,” he said.
The agency may be angry because Chip didn’t make his arrest easy for agents, Kay said.
“His parents and sister live here,” Kay said. “He’s been in this country since he was 15. Where was he going to run?”
If Chip is deported, the attorney plans to file for a waiver with immigration officials to allow him to return. When a person is deported, they’re barred from re-entry for between five years and life.