A Denver-area father living in the U.S. unlawfully has been deported despite help from at least two of Colorado’s Democratic congressmen and an outcry about his case that stretched across the nation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Melecio Andazola Morales was removed from the country Dec. 15.
Andazola Morales’ supporters say he was at an interview with an immigration agent Oct. 12, believing he was about to be granted U.S. residency, when he was detained by immigration officers.
His daughter, Yale senior Viviana Andazola Marquez, and immigration attorney Hans Meyer, led calls for his release, saying his only crime was coming into the U.S. undocumented.
Then U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, each introduced legislation known as a “private bill” in an effort to halt Andazola Morales’ deportation.
However, ICE changed its policy in May to stop deferring action in the wake of such legislation, often a last-ditch effort by federal lawmakers to halt a removal from the U.S.
ICE says Andazola Morales, who is from Mexico, was criminally convicted in February 1997 of “knowingly possessing a false identification document and intending to use that document to defraud the United States. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.”
He was deported in March 1997 and then, ICE says, “illegally re-entered the United States.” After his detainment in October, his deportation order was reinstated, according to immigration officers.
Viviana is the oldest of Andazola Morales’ four children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.
In her admission essay to Yale University, she recounted the challenges of staying on top of her studies at York International School in Thornton and helping her younger siblings during a period of homelessness.
Her essay ran in The New York Times in 2014, and she’s now attending Yale on scholarships. Students at the Ivy League university have rallied in support of her father’s case.