Imagine if you had a father to help you get into Yale, one of the most prestigious universities — only to talk so much about your struggle and the oppression you faced growing up, that you end up getting him deported.
In a cruel twist of irony, that’s what happened to Viviana Andazola Marquez, who wrote in The New York Times: “I accidentally turned my dad into immigration services.”
In a Tuesday Times op-ed, the 21-year-old described how her father, Melecio, was detained while in the process of getting his green card to become a permanent resident of the United States, where he has lived illegally since 1988. Previously, she provided extensive detail about her parents’ undocumented status to the Huffington Post.
“Most people can’t wait to turn 21 so that they can drink,” she wrote. “For me, it was the day I could finally petition the government to change my dad’s immigration status. I filed the paperwork in February and believed it would be the beginning of sleeping easier at night, of not worrying about ‘la migra’ every time the phone rang.”
In the op-ed, Viviana, who is majoring in ethnicity, race and migration, described how her father raised four children on income from construction work. “He pays his taxes and plays by the rules,” she said. “He himself has been a perfect citizen — although, of course, he can’t call himself that.”
On Oct. 12, Viviana took time off during her senior year at Yale to fly home to Denver to help her father with his interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She thought it would be the final step in a process he’s been involved in for 16 years. Following a recommendation for approval, she was asked to leave the room — and moments later, her father’s attorney and interpreter appeared to tell her that they were told to leave the room by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
“I have spent hours discussing, studying and reimagining fairer immigration policies. But none of that, none of my hard work, is good enough. It won’t release my dad,” she wrote, lamenting that she was unable to do anything about his deportation despite majoring in the topic at college.
According to Hans Meyer, Andazola Morales’ immigration attorney, his client was detained because of an order of exclusion issued when he was stopped at a Texas border in 1997. According to the Denver Post, an order of exclusion is a legal term no longer in use, but it’s effectively the same as an order of deportation. Following deportation in 1998, he returned once again to the U.S. undetected, where he has lived ever since.
ICE confirmed the details with the Denver Post, stating that it was acting on the reinstatement of a previous removal order in 1997.
Andazola Morales’s detention has made the waves throughout Yale, where Viviana’s friends and supporters started a GoFundMe to help the family. They gathered to protest outside of the Geo Group detention facility on Tuesday evening. The GoFundMe page has received $74,000 as of Tuesday.
“It isn’t unheard of for people going through the process, who are following the legal process to receive a green card, are sometimes detained and put into deportation proceedings,” said assistant professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, who teaches law at the University of Denver.
“The tricky thing about the age we’re living in is that the Trump administration has expanded the prioritization that immigration officers used under President Obama such that these days, just about anyone who is in the U.S. who is violation of immigration law is a top priority.”
Melecio Andazola Marquez has been in detention ever since in Aurora, Colorado, and awaits deportation unless ICE grants him the cancellation of his removal.