Students rallied throughout the weekend in support of Melecio Andazola Morales, father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, in response to the news of his impending deportation.
According to an online petition calling for Melecio Andazola to be released from detention, Viviana Andazola petitioned for her father, who crossed the border into the United States in 1998, to obtain permission to stay in the country permanently earlier this year. Upon arriving at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Denver on Thursday afternoon, Andazola Morales was separated from his daughter and lawyer and arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Andazola Morales received his notice of deportation on Friday morning at around 11 a.m. and is currently being held at an ICE Processing Center in Aurora, Colorado, operated by the GEO Group, a company that runs private prisons.
The future remains painfully unclear for many who are invested in Andazola Morales’ well-being and who do not yet know when he will be physically removed from the country.
“This incident goes beyond my dad,” Andazola Marquez said in a video statement posted on Facebook on Sunday. “This is an incident that exemplifies the way that undocumented immigrants get treated in this country when they seek to obtain status.”
Because the current U.S. immigration system is so unpredictable, said Alejandra Trujillo-Elizalde ’19, a friend of Andazola Marquez, supporters of Andazola Morales plan to move forward on a day-to-day basis. On Friday, Trujillo-Elizalde told the News that preventing a deportation at this point “does not seem too promising” but said on Sunday that “we’re feeling better and better moving forward.”
According to Trujillo-Elizalde and Fernando Rojas ’19, another friend of Andazola Marquez, the current objective is to prolong Andazola Morales’ stay in the country, giving his lawyer time to find a way to prevent him from having to leave.
Late Thursday night and Friday morning, friends of Andazola Marquez and student leaders of La Casa Cultural flooded club email panlists, group chats and social media with invitations to a phone-banking event at La Casa to persuade politicians and ICE officials to intervene. Roughly 400 students attended the event on Friday, even as the state of Colorado issued an order of deportation.
On Saturday, students began directing phone calls toward Jeffrey Lynch, a field office director at ICE in Denver. Rojas and Trujillo-Elizalde told the News that reaching out to Lynch could lead to a stay of removal and a reopening of the deportation case. It is not the first time Lynch has been embroiled in controversy. In March, U.S Rep. Jared Polis (D., Colorado) described him as a “rogue” employee after he did not grant a stay of deportation to a Mexican woman who had taken refuge in the basement of a Denver church.
As of Sunday evening, a GoFundMe page shared on social media asking for donations to support the family of Andazola Morales had raised more than $63,000, while a petition calling for Andazola Morales’ release from detention had 7,380 signatures. His supporters are also planning a national photo campaign and an undergraduate letter-writing campaign, as well as a demonstration at Yale on Tuesday at 8:30 pm. The demonstration will be held at the same time as a similar event taking place in Denver.
Students working out of La Casa have received advice on handling deportation cases from multiple Yale professors and administrators, including Head of Ezra Stiles College Stephen Pitti, Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar and American studies and ethnicity, race and migration professor Alicia Camacho. Student leaders have also reached out to faculty with requests to write opinion pieces on the detainment of Andazola Morales.
Vice President of Student Life Burgwell Howard told the News that “we are all incredibly shocked and saddened to hear the news about Mr. Morales” and that “folks across the University” are working to support the family in any way possible.
“Viviana is a dear member of the Yale community and La Casa,” said Eileen Galvez, director of La Casa. “Over the past few days, we have seen how our students utilize their intellect, creativity, networks and organizational skills to be present and supportive of one another … Melecio is indeed a part of the extended Yale family. Our students have certainly showed us that.”
There is a feeling “among many marginalized communities and peoples” that Andazola Morales and his daughter are the “real victims of the current political climate,” Galvez said.
Friends of Andazola Marquez sent a letter Friday afternoon to University President Peter Salovey explaining that, in keeping with the president’s public stance in defense of immigrants, they “expect and need” his support.
Samuel Bennett ’19, another friend of Andazola Marquez, told the News that he and other students received a response from Salovey on Sunday morning in which he wrote that he considered the situation “heartbreaking” and will continue his advocacy for immigrant communities.
“I applaud the many students and faculty who have rallied to help Viviana’s family, and I’m grateful that Dean Galvez has made La Casa a base headquarters for their efforts,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told the News. “President Salovey has directed me to ensure that Viviana is receiving support, including legal counsel and other forms of assistance. University officers are in active communication about the situation, and our thoughts are with Viviana, her father Melecio Andazola Morales, her family, and her numerous friends”
A press release provided to the News by the students involved in the advocacy effort emphasized Andazola Morales’ good character, stating that he has no criminal record, is a father of four U.S. citizens and has worked in construction in the U.S. for almost 20 years.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org