Viviana Andazola Marquez, a 21-year-old Yale University student, took a day off from her university last week so she could accompany her father, Andazola Morales, to a local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency branch in Colorado.
It was a very important day for the family. Morales was scheduled for an appointment to get a green card — something he had been waiting for 16 years. The man thought it was finally the time for him to become a permanent U.S. citizen, but what followed shocked both the daughter and father.
At first the interview, which took place on Oct.12, seemed fine. An agent went through all of the questions the lawyer had prepared Morales for, and it looked like the Colorado man was going to get his green card quite easily. However, suddenly, the interviewer asked Andazola Marquez to leave the room.
“The agent told me my dad had been recommended for approval, but that she just had one more thing to review and asked me to leave the room,” Andazola Marquez said. “I thought, ‘huh that’s weird,’ but left the room. About 15 to 20 minutes later, the lawyer and interpreter came out and told me that three ICE agents had come in to detain my dad and that they hadn’t been allowed to explain any of his rights.”
Her father’s attorney and interpreter said they’d been pushed out of the room by three ICE officers.
“And my dad’s been in detention ever since,” Andazola Marquez added.
Given that Morales was on his way to becoming a citizen, his arrest came as a huge surprise.
“She didn’t give me a reason. I looked at my lawyer and I was confused… Once the ICE agents apprehended my dad, they forcibly pushed out my dad’s lawyer and interpreter. [ICE agents] shoved them and closed the door on them,” she recalled.
According to Hans Meyer, Morales’ new immigration attorney, his client was detained due to an order of exclusion that was issued when his client, a Mexican national, was stopped at the border in Texas in 1997.
An order of exclusion is a legal term that’s no longer in use, but it is like an order of deportation. After his deportation in 1997, Morales reportedly returned to the U.S. undetected in 1998 and has lived here ever since.
“We had gone in thinking we were going to leave the building with my dad’s green card,” Andazola Marquez explained. “I left not knowing what was going to happen to my dad.”
Andazola Marquez, a bright student, is the oldest of four kids — all of them U.S. citizens. She said she one day hopes to become an immigrant lawyer. But as of now, she can only think of ways to help out her father.
The Yale student has one more semester to go, but says she might need to drop out and get a job to support her family if her father stays in detention for long.
“I’m in my senior year, I’m in the middle of midterms,” she said. “I need to graduate to be able to provide for my family as well. I’ve spent my entire time at Yale reimagining the immigration system, so it’s kind of ironic that I’m now here, taken away from my studies — trying to fix this grave problem that the U.S. is having and has failed to adequately address."
Many of her friends at Yale have come forward to her support. They have even set up a GoFundMe page to help the family.
“He thought he was doing everything he was supposed to do,” Andazola Marquez continued. “He doesn’t understand why something like this would happen to him. He’s pretty upset. He just wants to be with his family.”
Although Trump’s orders originally intended to keep “bad dudes” out of the U.S., the raids have become more indiscriminate with time. Immigrant officials have come under fire for arresting undocumented immigrants outside courthouses, churches and schools.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Carlos Barria