Joel Colindres is a Connecticut father who is facing deportation in less than two weeks, even though ICE gave him a stay of deportation just last year.
Colindres has been in the US since 2004, is married to a U.S. citizen, has two U.S. citizen children, has held the same carpenter job for a dozen years, owns a home, and pays taxes. An undocumented immigrant who marries a U.S. citizen is typically not eligible to become a legal resident or U.S. citizen without first leaving the country for at least ten years. Immigrants like Colindres generally have no way of correcting their undocumented status despite the number of years they’ve spent in the U.S.
Colindres came to the U.S. in 2004 after fleeing Guatemala due to violence. He turned himself into authorities in Texas and spent 14 years filing requests for ICE to hear his asylum case. He had two attorneys who missed deadlines or filed papers improperly, and was ordered deported when he missed a court date he didn’t know he had to show up for. To this day, no immigration judge has heard Colindres’ claims for asylum. He says he fears for his life if forced to return to Guatemala; three family members were murdered in the last year alone.
Even though ICE knew about Colindres, for years the agency allowed him to stay with his family in the U.S. as long as he checked in periodically. Last August, he was almost deported in a “silent raid” when ICE under the newly-sworn-in Trump Administration refused to allow him to continue to stay. A reprieve was offered at the last minute — but now, ICE is after him again.
Colindres’ community and elected officials have rallied around him. Twice in the last week, immigrant rights’ groups, faith leaders, unions, elected officials, and other grassroots groups including CT Shoreline Indivisible have held demonstrations in support of Joel and his family. His members of Congress couldn’t attend a vigil held last Sunday night, so Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT) sent a letter that was read by a pastor in attendance, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called in and spoke to the community by phone. Despite the support, however, it’s unclear whether Colindres will be able to stay.
As Sen. Blumenthal said in a recent statement:
My heart breaks as Joel Colindres fights yet another cold and callous attempt to break apart his beautiful family….This nightmare is the direct result of a deportation regime that has lost all reason and rationality—a badly broken immigration system that betrays our fundamental American values and morals. I will continue to seek comprehensive immigration reform to bring lasting relief and certainty for the Colindres family and so many others facing such avoidable tragedy.
I will be contacting the Secretary of Homeland Security demanding Joel Colindres be given a full and fair day in court, and that this deportation be stopped. This deportation would violate the spirit of [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen’s assurances to me in this week’s hearing that the Department’s focus would be on criminals, not people like Joel who have worked hard, raised families, contributed to communities, and lived here for decades, without any criminal record.
View photos from last Sunday’s candlelight vigil for Joel Colindres and his family: