This story has been updated on Dec. 19 to reflect the latest development.
Despite weeks of student activism, Melecio Andazola Morales, the father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, has been deported to Mexico and barred from re-entering the United States for 20 years, Andazola Marquez told the News on Sunday night.
At 11 a.m. on Friday, Andazola Morales was removed from a detention facility in Denver, Colorado, where he had been held for 64 days. From there, his daughter said, he was flown to El Paso, Texas, and then to Arizona, where he was placed in another detention facility for four hours before being transferred to a bus, cuffed by his hands and feet and driven to Nogales, Mexico.
The case sparked outrage at Yale and on other college campuses across the country after Andazola Morales was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a private detention center in Aurora, Colorado run by the GEO Group. Students signed petitions supporting Andazola Morales and gathered in La Casa Cultural to make phone calls to ICE, while students at other colleges — from Harvard to San Diego University — joined a photo campaign calling for his freedom. The #FreeMelecio campaign also garnered the support of U.S. Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, all Colorado Democrats.
But those efforts failed to sway U.S. immigration authorities. On Friday, ICE director Jeffrey Lynch denied Andazola Morales a stay of removal, paving the way for his deportation, Andazola Marquez told the News. She said ICE did not notify her father’s attorney that Lynch had denied her father his final recourse for staying in the country.
Andazola Morales told the family’s lawyer at 8 a.m on Friday that he was still in the
in the detention facility and had made it through a wave of scheduled deportations earlier that morning, Andazola Marquez explained. This led her family to believe he had at least one more week in the country, as the deportations usually took place early each Friday morning, Andazola Morales explained. But three hours later, immigration officials asked Andazola Morales to pack his belongings and prepare to leave the facility.
“They didn’t come get my dad until 11 a.m, and my dad was convinced he was going to be released in the U.S. because of that,” she said. “But instead, they took him to the airport.”
In accordance with ICE policy, Andazola Morales was not allowed to contact anyone outside the facility about his imminent removal from the country once his deportation began, but his family was still under the impression that he was not set to be deported on Friday because he had made it past the regularly scheduled deportations.
“For operational security reasons, ICE Denver detainees housed in the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, who have been processed for removal on the next ICE Air Operations flight, are considered to be ‘in transit,’ and are not authorized to make phone calls,” Carl Rusnok, a communications director for ICE, told the News. “The phones for this out-processing area are shut down until the ICE Air flight departs.”
Still, Andazola Marquez said she believes the timing of her father’s deportation after the family believed he was safe was “a calculated decision” by ICE to prevent the family from taking last-minute action to prevent the deportation.
Andazola Marquez and her family first suspected that something was amiss in the evening when Andazola Morales did not call them after detainee phone lines were restored. Andazola Marquez said she contacted ICE with questions, but no one would tell her the location of her father.
Asked to respond to Andazola Marquez’s claim that the timing of the deportation was “calculated,” Rusnok said there were “no out-of-the-ordinary schedule changes with the Dec. 15 ICE Air Operations (IAO) flight” and that “IAO flights routinely change for myriad reasons in detention management.”
On Saturday morning, Andazola Morales called his family to inform them that he was in Mexico and barred from re-entering the United States for two decades.
“My family will not be united for the holidays and will be facing economic hardship,” Andazola Marquez said. “We do not currently have the funds to help my dad secure a home and a vehicle, or to move my two younger sisters, who will be forced to leave the country in the wake of his removal.”
In the wake of the deportation, the Yale community has continued advocating for Andazola Marquez’s family. Director of La Casa Eileen Galvez asked that students and members of the community help the family with expenses related to relocating to Mexico in a newsletter sent out on Monday.
“We’re asking people to please donate anything they can, and help make this transition easier on Melecio, his wife, and daughters,” Galvez wrote. “If you can help in any way during this holiday season, it would be very much appreciated.”
A GoFundMe launched by Andazola Marquez on Dec. 18 has already raised more than $21,000 to help family cover the expenses of relocating to Mexico.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org