The attorney for a New Fairfield father facing deportation have called on immigration officials to allow him to stay in the U.S. while he continues efforts to become an American citizen.
Joel Colindres' attorneys, along with three prominent Connecticut lawmakers, are pleading with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to delay his deportation.
Colindres, who entered the U.S. illegally 13 years ago, was ordered to leave the country by Aug. 17 and return to his native country, Guatemala.
"If he leaves the United States on the 17th he will be barred from entering the United States for 10 years. That is why this is such an emergency,” his attorney, Erin O’Neil-Baker, said.
O’Neil-Baker said Colindres missed a court hearing in 2004, which triggered the deportation notice that is being enforced by the current administration.
"The thought of this family being ripped apart is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat.
Blumenthal, along with Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., sent a letter to ICE and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services urging the agencies to reconsider Colindres' deportation. Murphy and Esty met with his family for the first time on Monday.
"A day like today brings some hope when you have everybody here, but when you do look at the calendar, it’s like ‘Today’s our last full week together,’ you get upset," Joel’s wife, Samantha, said.
Supporters argue that Colindres should be allowed to stay in the country because he’s married to an American citizen and has no criminal record, according to The Associated Press. He also allegedly faces retribution if he returns to Guatemala.
"That’s based on things happening now in Guatemala, happening to his family," Esty said.
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," Colindres said.
The 33-year-old has a 6-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter with his wife, Samantha.
O’Neil-Baker said her client’s best chance of staying in this country includes 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.