FATHER FEARS HE HAS SEEN ADOPTED SON FOR LAST TIME
YOUNG MAN AWAITS DEPORTATION TO BRAZIL
The Plain Dealer
November 4, 2000
Nancy Saunders knows that she probably won't be at the airport to kiss her son goodbye.
The phone will ring, she says, and someone will tell her that Joao Herbert is gone - taken from the North Royalton City Jail and put on a plane to Brazil.
Saunders said the Immigration and Naturalization Service won't tell her when her adopted son will be deported to his native country. She said Joao (pronounced Ja-wan) already has stayed longer than she expected.
Mark Hansen, director of the INS office in Cleveland, said Herbert's deportation is imminent.
Herbert's legal problems began in 1997, when he sold 7.5 ounces of marijuana to a Wadsworth police informant.
When he was done serving his sentence for the marijuana conviction and a later conviction for escaping from custody, the INS ordered him held for deportation.
Herbert, now 22, was not a citizen, and a stronger deportation law passed in 1996 made drug trafficking a deportable offense.
Today, Herbert's future is cloudy. He doesn't know when he will leave. He doesn't know what city he'll be flown to. And, he's not even sure where he will live in a country whose language - Portuguese - he has long since forgotten.
Times were brighter in 1986 when Saunders and her former husband, James Herbert, went to Sao Paulo to adopt Joao from a Brazilian orphanage.
James Herbert submitted naturalization papers for his son shortly before Joao's 18th birthday, but the papers weren't processed until after he turned 18. Then Herbert was told his son would have to seek citizenship on his own.
James Herbert said yesterday he realizes he may never see his son again. Herbert, 56, who was injured in an automobile accident, is a quadriplegic, and he knows he won't be able to make it to Brazil.
Saunders, a hairdresser, said she plans to travel to Brazil after her son's deportation.
"I know in my heart I will see him again," she said.
She said she and her ex-husband asked for a visit with their son so they could embrace and kiss him one last time before he is deported.
"It was denied," she said.
Hansen said that the INS has no objection to such a visit but that visitation is subject to the rules of the jail. A North Royalton Jail administrator could not be reached for comment.
Saunders said her son recently complained about his long jail stay.
"He said, By all rights they shouldn't be keeping me,'" Saunders recalled. "I said, You have no rights.'"
James Herbert said he hopes his son might return to the United States someday - although he doesn't know how. He is angry that Gov. Bob Taft denied Joao's request for clemency because Taft said Joao had not demonstrated any remorse.
Clemency would have allowed Herbert's lawyer to seek to have his deportation overturned.
"If people really knew Joao, they would know he's a nice kid," James Herbert said.
Herbert said the Brazilian Embassy has been very helpful in trying to make arrangements for his son.
The cases of Joao Herbert and others facing deportation will be featured in an A&E network "Investigative Reports" program about the INS at 10 p.m. Thursday.