A New Fairfield father who was supposed to be deported to Guatemala today was at the airport, waiting to meet officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, when he received the news that a court decided to allow him to stay in the country temporarily.
The United States Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay today for 33-year-old Joel Colindres.
"Reason and justice have prevailed, at least temporarily, enabling Joel Colindres to stay with his family and pursue a fair hearing," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement, adding. "I will continue to stand with the family -- who would be ripped apart by this cruel and arbitrary decision."
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy released a statement, saying he is relieved for the Colindres family.
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Blumenthal, Murphy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, have been fighting for Colindres to stay and the Congress members sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to urge the agency to reconsider Colindres' deportation while he continued efforts to become an American citizen.
"The Trump administration has been targeting families like the Colindres, and it's an abomination," Murphy said in a statement. "President Trump must put an end to these costly, mean-spirited policies."
Part of their argument has included that Colindres has committed no crimes, is employed, pays taxes and is raising a family.
His attorney said Colindres, who entered the United States illegally 13 years ago, missed a court hearing in 2004, which triggered the deportation notice that is being enforced by the current administration.
Colindres said he was 20 years old at the time and living in Texas when he missed the immigration court date.
Samantha, Colindres’ wife of seven years, said her husband never received the order to appear in court.
"They had his address completely wrong, his first name was spelled with a k, his last name was wrong, he never even received the order to go the court," she said.
Because of the order, Colindres said he cannot apply for citizenship. Instead, he was granted several Stay of Deportation or "stays," which is an ICE-approved order that allowed him to remain in the country for one year.
The most recent "stay" application was denied, but then the appeals court released its decision.
Colindres allegedly faces retribution if he returns to Guatemala and officials said Thursday that three of close family members have been murdered in the last year, but did not elaborate on the circumstances.
Increased drug trafficking coupled with rising gang violence and easy access to firearms has helped place Guatemala among the world's deadliest nations in terms of murder rates, according to the U.S. Department of State. Guatemala is also a major transit country for cocaine and heroin, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
When asked how his family is being threatened, Colindres declined to comment.
"It’s more difficult now because everyone knows my face," said Colindres, who has a 6-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.
Colindres' attorney, Erin O’Neil-Baker, said her client’s best chance of staying in this country included his claims for asylum and the fact that deportation would be a hardship on his wife and two children.
"I don’t think you have any idea how hard it is to become part of this country," Colindres said in the past.