The American family of an illegal immigrant arrested after a traffic accident that killed a Nassau County sheriff’s deputy will move to El Salvador once the immigrant is sent back to that Central American nation, his wife said Friday.
“The only reason he came over here was for me and my kids. … I’m willing to pack up my stuff,” Viviana Portillo, a Texas native, said to explain her unusual choice. “I would do anything for my husband.”
Her husband, Francisco Portillo-Fuentes, was running from Deputy Eric Oliver in November when Oliver tried to cross Florida 200 in Yulee and was hit and killed by a passing car.
You can read the original Florida Times-Union story here.
Portillo-Fuentes, 26, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court for reentering the country illegally after being caught and removed once before.
His attorney wrote to the judge this week to emphasize that Portillo-Fuentes didn’t mean to cause any harm.
“The instant he ran, all he was thinking about was being separated from his wife and children and the end of his dream,” Assistant Federal Defender Mark Rosenblum wrote in a memo filed ahead of the sentencing by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard.
The attorney told the judge Portillo-Fuentes “will think about Deputy Oliver and his family every day for the rest of his life. He wishes he had submitted to being taken into custody, rather than running away.”
Portillo-Fuentes pleaded guilty to the illegal reentry charge in December and faces a maximum of two years behind bars, followed by removal from the country.
Portillo-Fuentes has spent about 100 days locked up so far, and Rosenblum argued that time served plus seven days would meet the goals the law sets out for sentencing.
“While he instinctively ran away to avoid being taken into custody, he did not intend that harm come to Deputy Oliver, and the officer’s death was unforeseeable to him,” Rosenblum argued. “Mr. Portillo-Fuentes did not commit a separate crime by running away, or surely the state and/or federal government would have charged an offense.”
A State Attorney’s Office spokesman said the Florida Highway Patrol forwarded a report last week outlining facts about Oliver’s death, but that report is still being reviewed.
Although he slipped back into the country before, Rosenblum told the judge that after Oliver’s death, Portillo-Fuentes “understands that he will never again be able to return to the United States.”
The memo said that at age 16, Portillo-Fuentes left his hometown on a drug trafficking corridor in El Salvador to get away from gangs that beat him up while trying to recruit him.
He learned the route north from other migrants and crossed the border near Laredo, Texas in 2008, traveling by freight train and doing day labor until he reached Corpus Christi, Rosenblum wrote.
He joined a carnival set-up crew and traveled with the company for several years, the memo said.
Portillo-Fuentes met his wife while they were both carnival workers, Rosenblum wrote, but he was caught by a Border Patrol agent and sent back to El Salvador before their first child was born.
The attorney told the judge Portillo-Fuentes “was drawn back to this country so the family could be reunited,” and moved to Jacksonville after that because his sister was here at that time. Portillo-Fuentes became a roofer, and his wife said they sometimes worked together.
Viviana Portillo said her husband’s mother is still in his hometown, Sonsonate.
To reunite with her husband, Portillo said she’ll bring the family’s five American-born children, ages 1 to 10, to Sonsonate once Portillo-Fuentes is removed from the U.S. For now, the children are living with grandparents in Texas.
Portillo, 31, said she’s never been to El Salvador, but Rosenblum told the judge it’s a hard place to raise kids.
Spiraling gang violence helped earn it a label as the murder capital of the world, and has been blamed for falling school attendance, he wrote.
But after Portillo-Fuentes is kicked out of the U.S., Rosenblum wrote, living in El Salvador “is the only option for them all – a family comprised entirely of United States citizens with the exception of Mr. Portillo-Fuentes – to be together.”