From its earliest days, President Donald Trump’s bigoted crackdown on those in the United States illegally gave up any pretense of focusing on truly bad actors like the violent criminals and drug runners the Obama administration deported in record number. Instead, the Trump administration took pains to round up even those peaceful undocumented immigrants whose lives here served as inspiration to their communities.
The latest example in Colorado came just in time to ruin Christmas for the family of Melecio Andazola Morales. His is the national story of a man headed to meet with immigration officials in belief he was to be granted U.S. residency, who, once at the meeting, found himself removed from his family and detained.
Last week, without first notifying his attorney, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials sent him to Mexico.
Andazola Morales had been in America for decades. He’s fathered four children here. As such, they are U.S. citizens, and are apparently serious about perusing the American dream. His oldest daughter, Viviana Andazola Marquez, is a senior at Yale. In October, she took time away from classes to fly back to Colorado to be with the family as her father expected — after working for 16 years to obtain citizenship — to be handed a green card.
“I think that it creates a distress, not just for my dad, but for the immigrant community who are trying to do right by the law,” Andazola Marguez told The Denver Post’s Jenn Fields. “For agents like ICE and (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to be bringing people in under the pretense that they are going to be able to do right by the law, and instead detaining them — it sends an awful message.”
With her father’s deportation now complete, and the family spending its Christmas thinking of how to relocate to Mexico to join him, that message rings devastatingly loud and clear.
So does another. We bemoaned the fact this spring that the Trump administration chose to gut a longtime and honorable practice in Congress meant to protect those here illegally who posed no criminal risk and whose ties to the community made their deportation nonsensical and inhumane. Before the change, if a member of Congress petitioned on the behalf of an immigrant, deportations were dropped for the rest of the member’s term and were renewable. Now, the process requires approval of the chair of House or Senate judiciary committees, presently filled by Republicans, and stays are limited to six months, with a possible one-time 90-day extension.
Under these new rules, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Ed Perlmutter, both Democrats from Colorado, rightly tried to intercede on Andazola Morales’ behalf, but failed.
What kind of man has our country evicted, leaving his four American children behind? Like so many of those here illegally that we have defended, Andazola Morales was convicted in 1997 of possessing false identification in order to work. He was deported but re-entered the country.
Bad actors ought to be sent packing, and we understand that ICE officials have legitimate concerns with how our broken immigration system complicates cooperation with local police when it comes to pursuing the truly dangerous. But deportations like the one Andazola Morales just endured would hardly seem to serve the goal of bridging those divides.
And so, as we wish for peace on Earth and goodwill to humankind this Christmas season, we again add our hope that Congress finally steps in and institutes reforms that stop such needless cruelty.
Content originally published by The Denver Post on December 22, 2017.