Protesters converged on the state capitol Thursday in an effort to stop the deportation of Glastonbury resident Jorge Salcedo, an immigrant from Peru who holds a green card and served eight years in the U.S. military.
Salcedo, who moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 14 years old, pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer, not knowing it could cost him his U.S. residency and take him away from his family.
"Like many veterans, Jorge developed PTSD and depression and tried to self-medicate with alcohol. He developed an alcoholism problem and was convicted of DUIs in which no one was injured and in 2003 of spitting on a police officer who was arresting him," the National Day Laborer Organizing Network wrote on a petition to keep Salcedo in Connecticut.
According to the petition, Salcedo's attorney assumed he was a U.S. citizen and didn't warn him that the guilty plea could have consequences. Salcedo is one of thousands of immigrants who serve in the U.S. military without becoming legal citizens.
"Yes, he committed something wrong. He was charged with assaulting an officer for spitting at an officer," immigration advocate Karina Calle said at Thursday's protest. "But he suffers from PTSD, he suffers from depression. What he needs is the adequate resources in order to move on."
But it could be too late. Salcedo is already in the custody of federal agents.
His wife, U.S. native Cindy LaPointe, and two daughters, ages 16 and 3, visited Salcedo for what may be the last time before he is removed from the country.
LaPointe told the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) that Salcedo's absence has dealt a blow to the entire family.
"The effects of not having Jorge home have been devastating in every aspect. We have lost a main support to our family, a parent, a provider. We have recently lost our car, our home, we have moved into his parents' basement and I have been forced to file for bankruptcy due to his being detained over the past 15 months," LaPointe said.
Nonetheless, she told NBC Connecticut that the family is holding out hope.
"Our family is very hopeful that he’ll be able to come back home," said LaPointe. "He’s an honorably discharged veteran of eight years; he’s maintained consistent employment at New England Blacktop in Glastonbury for the past 15 years."
According to the NDLON, Salcedo has apologized to the officer and has said, "Sorry for everything that I have done and to anyone that has been affected by my drinking."
But unless lawyers can convince an immigration judge to give Salcedo a hearing, he’ll be sent to Peru. The petition to keep Salcedo in the U.S. had collected nearly 1,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.