September 7, 2007 Volume 108 Number 17

Carpenters organizer allowed to leave U.S. on his own

A federal immigration case against a local union organizer came to a close last month. Mexican national José Cobián, known to friends by his assumed name José Luis Mendoza, was allowed to leave the United States on his own rather than be forcibly deported.

Cobián, a union organizer for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, pled guilty to passport fraud last September and spent two weeks in jail. Then for almost a year, he remained in the United States while his deportation case moved through a series of court appearances. He was unable to legally work, but he and his family were maintained by donations from union co-workers. Cobián was able to sell his house in Molalla.

On Aug. 24, a federal judge gave him a deadline of Aug. 31 to leave the country. His wife and two U.S.-born children had left earlier to stay with her parents in Tampico.

Cobían told the Labor Press he planned to oversee shipment of the family’s belongings, and then return to Mexico to look for work.

“Unless the law changes,” Cobián said, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to come back.”

“I hate to see him go,” said Carpenters organizer Cliff Puckett, a former co-worker who attended the final court appearance. “For all intents and purposes he was just an honest human being trying to provide for his family.”