Melecio Andazola Morales, an unauthorized immigrant whose case gained national attention because of his daughter’s writing, has been removed from the United States.
Morales was detained in Denver in October during a meeting with federal agents. His daughter, an undergraduate at Yale University, said that the family had expected the meeting to be one of the final steps in the process of getting him legal residency. Instead, he was detained.
Now Morales has been deported to a border city in Mexico. The removal came last week without notice, according to his attorney’s office.
“Every night, Melecio would call Viviana and talk with her,” said Julie Gonzales of the Meyer Law Office. “He didn’t call on Friday evening, at which point she texted me.”
They soon discovered that Morales had been deported with no notice to the family or the attorneys and Congressional offices that were involved with the case, according to Gonzales. Now, Andazola Morales is stranded in an unfamiliar city, she said.
Hans Meyer is the attorney who took the case after Andazola Morales was detained. He earlier described the arrest as a “trick.” Today, he said the deportation signaled a merciless attitude by immigration authorities.
“The deeper issue is there’s no reason to destroy the lives of four U.S. citizen children,” he said in an interview with Denverite.
“Good people can’t find a way under our legal system to ask for a pardon for a mistake they made more than 20 years ago … no matter how much they’ve contributed to the community.”
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed the deportation and, in a separate statement to Yale Daily News, said that people being deported can’t make calls due to security concerns.
Andazola Morales entered the United States illegally in March 1997 before being detained and removed, according to ICE. He was caught while trying to cross the border and ejected, Meyer said.
He later returned and entered the U.S. without authorization in 1998, moving to Colorado, according to his attorneys. He applied for permanent residency in 2001 through his brother, a citizen. The waitlist for that status is nearly 20 years, Meyer said.
He was able to jump ahead in the line when he filed a new application for residency this year through his eldest daughter, Viviana, a senior at Yale and a U.S. citizen. That application triggered a background check, revealing the previous record, according to Gonzales.
After her father was detained, Viviana Andazola Marquez penned an article for The New York Times. It was titled, “I accidentally turned my father in to immigration services.” Andazola Marquez’s college admission essay, which describes many difficulties she had to overcome, including periods of homelessness, also appeared in the New York Times.
Andazola Morales is a construction worker by trade and a full-time caretaker both for his 2-year-old daughter, who has epilepsy, and for his mother, Meyer said.
His only criminal record is related to his unauthorized entrance into the country, according to Meyer. The attorney declined to give more detail, except to say that the criminal matter only resulted in unsupervised probation. The conviction was for having a false ID, according to ICE.
Soon after taking the case in October, Meyer started pushing for a review of the original 1997 immigration case against Andazola Morales. An immigration court denied that motion last week, and ICE quickly deported the man, Meyer said.
“ICE moved so quickly that we didn’t even get a copy … before they removed him from the country,” Meyer said. “It’s not only what ICE did but how they did it. That’s a major problem.”
A spokesman for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The law office was still reviewing the original court files and putting together legal arguments, according to Gonzales. The attorneys still have not received notice of the removal, she said.
Now, Meyer sees little chance of getting the removal reversed. “ICE dropped the guillotine on Melecio and his family’s head,” he said.
The family will be separated now, with Andazola Morales’ two youngest children and his wife moving to be with him in Mexico. One of the children is 2, while the other is in elementary school, according to Gonzales. The family has turned to GoFundMe as they restart their lives.
Viviana Andazola Marquez, meanwhile, is “in the middle of finals at Yale,” Gonzales said. “This couldn’t come at a more devastating time.”