Despite marriage to U.S. citizen, deportation looms for local business owner

Jeanne Edwards with her baby son, Aadi. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

A Saugerties business owner is facing deportation and separation from his wife and infant son after new hard-line immigration policies and a torturously slow bureaucracy left him in legal limbo.

Bhavesh “Bobby” Bhatt, 43 and his wife Jeanne Edwards, 28 own the Glasco Deli near Mount Marion Elementary School. They own a home in town and in October welcomed a new baby boy to the family. Bhatt is a familiar face to Saugerties residents having spent years working in local delis and gas stations before saving enough to buy his own business.


“Everyone knows my husband,” said Edwards. “Little old ladies come off the mountain to ask if he can shovel their driveway — because he will. Kids stop in and say ‘Hey Bobby my car’s making this funny sound, can you take a look at it?”

But the couple’s small-town life was upended on January 31 when Bhatt was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while attending a routine interview at the agency’s New York City offices. Now, Edwards said, they are in a race against time between Bhatt’s pending deportation back to his native India and approval of a marriage document that will likely allow him to remain in the country and with his family.

Bhatt has been in the country since 2001 when he illegally crossed the Mexican border. In 2004 he was caught and slapped with a removal order. Since that time he has been allowed to remain in the United States based on a policy of “prosecutorial discretion” which gave immigration authorities wide latitude when it came to deportation. Steadily employed and with no criminal history, Bhatt made regular visits to New York immigration offices where officials would routinely stay the deportation order and allow him to remain, albeit with no path to legal status.

In 2012 Bhatt and Edwards were introduced through mutual friends.  In April 2016 they married. The same year they purchased a home and bought the business. Thirteen months later, Edwards said, they began the process of obtaining legal status for Bhatt by filing an “I-130” form attesting to the validity of the marriage. The application, which asks for extensive financial and other information, is used by immigration authorities to determine if a union is legitimate for the purposes of determining legal status. According to Bhatt’s Attorney, Marilyn Labrada-Dume, with the I-130 in place, Bhatt could have the removal order lifted and, eventually apply for a permanent residency.

“This should be approved,” said Labrada-Dume. “They have a house together, they have a baby together, there’s no question that it’s a bona-fide marriage.”

But, nine months after filing the application, the couple still hasn’t received word on a decision by immigration officials. Bhatt, meanwhile, was taken into custody on January 31 when he showed up for his regularly scheduled interview with immigration enforcement bearing his son’s birth certificate. Since then, he has been held in a New Jersey detention center. Labrada-Dume said that his arrest and efforts to have him deported reflected new hard-line immigration policies enacted under Donald J. Trump’s administration. The new administrative rules give immigration authorities little discretion when it comes to enforcement of existing removal orders. The rules apply even in cases like Bhatt’s where there is no allegation of criminal activity or other wrongdoing.

“Under the previous administration they were deporting people left and right, but usually because of a criminal conviction,” said Labrada-Dume. “They weren’t dividing families like this.”

No valid Indian passport

LaBrada-Dume said that an immigration court had recently turned down her request to put removal proceedings on hold pending a decision on the I-130 application. Now, she says, Bhatt could be deported at any time. If he is, he’ll face another quandary — he does not have and Indian passport and Indian authorities do not recognize him as a citizen. If he arrives without a valid passport, he is liable to be detained by Indian authorities. “Basically, he could end up going from a jail in New Jersey to a jail in Mumbai,” said Edwards.

While Bhatt awaits his fate in the detention center, Edwards has taken a leave from her job as an educator for a local nonprofit in order to keep the business going. Meanwhile, Edwards said, their baby is being monitored for possible hydrocephaly, a condition where fluid builds up in the brain. She’s making regular trips to Albany for the child’s medical appointments and facing the prospect of brain surgery depending on how things progress. Edwards said the agonizing wait was made worse knowing that a single document, currently making its way through the immigration bureaucracy was all that was needed to bring her husband home and keep her family together.

“It feels so personal,” said Edwards. “It feels like they’re doing it just because we were so close to getting him legal status.”

There are 7 comments

  1. Sick and tired

    Don’t let the door hit you, on your way home. I do not understand, why people disregard the word “illegal”, in the term illegal alien, for all those who do it correctly, let’s stop spending money defending these criminals, and let’s get rid of every last one of them. If, you come here “illegally”, then you should be removed, as quickly as possible, to whence they came!

  2. constance bailey

    Separating families is wrong. Nothing about this case suggests anything to the contrary. What can we do to help in this situation?

  3. Really?

    So he illegally immigrated long ago, and had a removal order on himself… but continued to be allowed to live here illegally, and now after nearly 15 years, its a travesty that the removal order is being executed? Why are we supposed to feel bad for these folks again?

  4. I Nic

    This is a terrible thing they are doing to families. We all come from immigrants! They need to let the family be together. People who think other wise are cold and heartless. Let his paperwork go thru.

  5. Julie Zona

    IM sorry.. but the ignorant butt heads that are saying they should be deported… what is your beef… the guy has worked his whole life here, he provides a great business and he is a great person. He helps people with out putting his hand out for a fee… but yet your asses would say send him away because the word illegal is in it… let me dig in your little closet of skeletons and find out how many illegal maneuvers you have made in life… how about we get rid of your ignorant selves…. rid the world of you inhumane selfish morons….. thats a child’s father… a woman’s husband.. and they earn an honest living…. smh

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