Free Melecio

Melecio Andazola Morales, father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, will be under immediate threat of deportation starting this Thursday if the U.S. government denies him asylum, Andazola Marquez told the News.

Up to this point, she said, Andaloza Morales was protected from deportation to Mexico only because he was going through the asylum process. After he was detained, ICE was required by law to give him an asylum interview, she added. Following the interview, she said, ICE concluded that Andazola Morales did not have a “claim to reasonable fear” — a standard that allows detainees to avoid deportation if there is reasonable fear they will be persecuted or tortured after returning to their home country.

A hearing to appeal ICE’s decision is scheduled for this Thursday. If that appeal is denied, Andazola Morales could face immediate deportation, unless ICE Director Jeffrey Lynch grants him a stay of removal, Andazola Marquez said. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Melecio’s case late Tuesday night.

“That might be the best case scenario while we await a decision on the motion to reopen his case in El Paso,” Andazola Marquez told the News. “Jeffrey Lynch can grant a stay, so it’s important to continue showing community support for that motion.”

On Nov. 16, Andazola Morales’ lawyer filed a motion to reopen the case regarding his initial order of exclusion, which stemmed from his first arrest in El Paso, Texas in 1997 for entering the country as an undocumented immigrant.

According to the #FreeMelecio Facebook page, Lynch sent a letter to the Melecio team on Nov. 3 stating that “he would not be using prosecutorial discretion to cancel Melecio’s exclusion order.” A stay of removal order, which is a legal motion different from cancelling Melecio’s exclusion order, would also grant Andazola Morales a stay.

Amid these new legal developments, the #FreeMelecio campaign has continued at Yale and in Colorado. As late as last Monday — Andazola Morales’ birthday — the #FreeMelecio Facebook account was still directing supporters to call Lynch to request that he grant Melecio a stay of removal and release him from custody.

Politicians in Colorado have also stepped up their support for Andazola Morales over the past month. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., each sponsored bills, on Nov. 9 and Nov. 13 respectively, to release Andazola Morales from custody and allow him to pursue legal residency in the United States.

Perlmutter’s and Bennet’s bills would make Andazola Morales eligible to receive an immigrant visa or to have his status adjusted “to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence” upon filing an application for an immigrant visa. 

The effect the legislation will have on Andazola Morales’ situation remains unclear because, under President Donald Trump’s administration, ICE no longer defers action when lawmakers introduce such “private bills” in Congress.

Other politicians have also thrown their support behind the effort to free Andazola Morales from custody. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., a leading gubernatorial candidate for Colorado and one of the wealthiest members of Congress, released a statement in mid-October saying he had instructed his staff to do everything in its power to help Andazola Morales and his family.

“The level of support that Melecio Andazola Morales has received is an indication of his strong ties to the U.S.,” Polis told the News. “It is also an indication that the community demands a more deliberate and humane immigration system with due process protections.”

Polis added that he and other congressional colleagues have sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking ICE to release Melecio to give him the chance to appear before an immigration judge.

As of Tuesday evening, a petition to release Andazola Morales from custody has over 23,100 signatures, and a GoFundme campaign to support him and his family has raised over $78,500.

Britton O’Daly | britton.odaly@yale.edu