Tuesday, August 12, 2008
My punishment does not fit my crime. Dysfunctional and inhumane Immigration system
The family of a Welshman detained in a US prison today spoke of their disgust over his treatment across the Atlantic.
Zak Ashenhurst, 35, who was born in Barry but raised in America, is being held in a jail in California as he awaits deportation over a firearms offence he committed as a 17-year-old, as revealed in yesterday’s Echo.
Today, his cousin Chris Case, 41, of Earl Crescent, Barry, said: “I can’t believe what they’re doing to him. It’s just wrong.
“His brother has served in the American army and his wife and kids are all American.
“He was charged 20-odd years ago and he’s been in no trouble since. He’s paid his penalty.”
Dad-of-two Mr Ashenhurst was detained under American legislation allowing foreign nationals with a criminal record to be detained for months and eventually deported, irrespective of the severity of the offence or time lapsed since the conviction.
Mr Ashenhurst’s crime was to fire a gun into an empty swimming pool as a prank nearly 20 years ago. He was fined and the offence was seemingly forgotten before he even reached his twenties.
Now a married family man, he runs his own business as well as working for Hewlett Packard and coaching children’s sports in his spare time.
It is not known how long Mr Ashenhurst will have to remain in jail before he is deported.
When the dad is eventually allowed to leave, he and his family hope to return to Barry, where they will stay with Mr Case.
Mr Case, who runs Big Blue Aquatics tropical fish house in Caerphilly, said he would help his cousin find work and a place to live in South Wales. “He won’t go back to America after all this,” said Mr Case.
“His wife won’t want to be apart from him so she will have to come over with the kids as well. But we don’t even know how long it’s going to be before they let him leave prison and come over here.”
Mr Ashenhurst’s mother Judith first took her children to live in America in 1979 but has returned to the UK following her son’s ordeal. She suffers from health problems following a stroke and is being cared for by her sister in Yorkshire.
“She’s in a hell of a mess,” said Mr Case.
“I’ve never seen her looking so worried before. She’s under so much stress because of what’s happened to Zak.
“I know my auntie’s had enough now. She won’t be going back to America any time soon.