Renato Filippi, who worked undercover for the federal government after being caught entering the country illegally, is facing deportation in a matter of weeks. (Courtesy Photo/Tom Roy, NH Union Leader)
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Attorney Bob McDaniel is not afraid of controversy, even if it means challenging the president of the United States.
The Inter-Lakes High School graduate who went on to serve in the U.S. Attorney’s Office before returning to his hometown of Meredith has filed a federal lawsuit in Concord in an effort to stall the deportation of 58-year-old Renato Filippi of Nashua.
Filippi is a Brazilian immigrant who, although he entered the country illegally, has worked as a government informant to help prosecute human traffickers and, in recent years, has been operations manager for a New Hampshire company that has created additional jobs for Americans.
The McDaniel Law Office filed papers on Oct. 2 on Filippi’s behalf, to stop a process that McDaniel believes is both wrong and unconstitutional.
Filippi is among those who entered the United States illegally when economic conditions in his native Brazil became intolerable.
“It was 2002,” said Filippi. “There was no work. Crime was everywhere. I could not provide for my wife and child. I came to America to find a better life.”
He took advantage of an offer from smugglers to make an “excursion to the U.S.” He was taken through Mexico and swam across the Rio Grande into Texas where he was met by the U.S. Border Patrol.
The federal authorities arresting him offered him a deal: If he would provide information about the smugglers who arranged his passage from Brazil, and work undercover to help prosecute other traffickers, he would receive a Social Security card, a driver’s license, and a work authorization allowing him to stay indefinitely in the United States.
Filippi agreed, and served as a confidential informant for the U.S. Government for nine years.
“It almost cost him his life,” McDaniel said.
Filippi went undercover into a prison and elsewhere, exposing criminals, including international terrorists with connections to Europe and the Middle East. When word got out that Filippi was assisting the American government, his life was threatened, and getting his wife and daughter safely to the United States became a priority.
Federal law enforcement officials, including those in the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and foreign intelligence personnel, lauded Filippi’s work, and he was able to legally bring his wife and daughter into the country. Both are U.S. citizens, and today his daughter works for Homeland Security.
“But there’s no path to citizenship” for someone who entered the country illegally, McDaniel said. “Illegal immigrants known to the government are given Orders of Supervision which require them to provide their contact information and to check in with Immigration on a regular basis.”
During the Obama Administration, the government focused on deporting those who committed crimes, but they ignored the others, as long as they were not criminals, he said.
“That changed on Jan. 20,” McDaniel said, referring to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. “Deportation was expanded from criminals only to everybody.”
On Sept. 5, Filippi attended his routine check-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, as he had done for 14 years.
“Each time, they stamp my form and say, ‘OK, you are all set,’” Filippi said. “But this day was different. The man said to me, ‘You have until October to show us an airline ticket to Brazil with a departure date no later than Nov. 6. If you do not, you will be arrested.’”
Stunned, Filippi asked why this was happening, after U.S. officials had told him he could stay in the country.
“I asked, ‘What did I do wrong?’ He said only, ‘You are being deported.’”
“He was swept up in an unconstitutional roundup of good people,” McDaniel said.
Charlie Morgan of Bedford considers Filippi his right-hand man. Filippi has worked for Morgan’s four companies for more than a decade, starting out a minimum wage and rising to operations manager. Morgan called Filippi responsible, self-directed, and hard-working, and said his management allowed Morgan to expand and create more jobs.
“I am heartbroken,” Morgan said, “and absolutely, unequivocally disappointed in my government.”
“They just want to tear the family apart,” McDaniel said, calling it a disgrace to the criminal justice system.
Immigration lawyers referred Filippi to the McDaniel Law Office, which began by contacting ICE. The office, McDaniel said, “is like a chamber of despair.”
“The perplexing thing,” he said, “is what advantage is there to the government? He worked for the government, has employment in New Hampshire, and to what end?”
McDaniel is working with Manchester immigration attorney George Bruno to halt Filippi’s deportation.
“Obviously, time is short,” Bruno said.
McDaniel said he is not expecting a warm reception from the federal court, which is likely to dismiss the case.
“We have to pursue every other remedy,” he said, noting that the next step would be to file with the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit in Boston. There also may be some administrative remedies within the law enforcement community, he said.
“But we’re not going to give up. This case is a test of American decency and humanity. Wherever you stand on immigration, which admittedly is a hot-button issue, people need to know what is happening now.
“Imagine being torn from your spouse and children, your job, your school system, your way of life, with 60 days’ notice. … This government has become cruel and heartless, and this is something that’s keeping us awake at night. It makes you feel so powerless.”
Laurie and Robert E. McDaniel of the McDaniel Law Office in Meredith are working to halt the deportation of Renato Filippi. (Courtesy photo)
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