Colorado congressman bringing daughter of deported man to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address

Melecio Andazola Morales was deported in December after, his supporters say, being detained during an interview with immigration officials

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Washington, D.C.-, January 28, 2018 | comments

It has been just over two months since Viviana Andazola Marquez’s father was deported, sending her studies at Yale University and plans to apply to law school spiraling.

But on Tuesday night the Denver-area woman and American citizen will have a chance to face the president — and Congress — she feels are responsible.

Andazola Marquez is set to attend President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address as a guest of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat. She is hoping to share her story with legislators in a push for changes to the nation’s immigration policies and laws.

“What I think that I’d like to say to the rest of the lawmakers, the Democrats and Republicans alike, is that the policies that they are enacting are having real day-to-day consequences on people all across the nation — their constituents included,” she said. “I really hope that they will think twice about what kind of deals they are making with Trump.”

With the president set to deliver remarks on infrastructure, the economy and national security, a host of lawmakers want to make sure he doesn’t forget about immigration.

Many are bringing immigration-related guests, including young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children and whose deportation protections under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programhave been placed at risk by Trump’s move last year to dismantle the initiative.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expected to be one of those hosting a DACA recipient. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, will be accompanied by a DACA recipient from his district as well, according to his spokeswoman.

“He learned English, he was paying taxes — doing everything right,” Perlmutter said of Andazola Marquez’s dad, Melecio Andazola Morales. “These wrong-headed, I think, very cruel and stupid policies of the Trump administration are just causing such pain and anguish to people who don’t deserve it.”

Melecio has four children including Viviana, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

His supporters say he was detained by immigration agents in October while he was with Viviana during what he thought was the last step in getting a green card. She flew back from college to attend the meeting, but what she thought was going to be one of her best days turned into one of her worst.

“I had to step in to plan for the rest of my family,” she remembered. “It was just really stressful.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Melecio was deported in March 1997 after being criminally convicted a month before of “knowingly possessing a false identification document and intending to use that document to defraud the United States. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.”

ICE says after he was detained in October, a development that drew national attention, his deportation order was reinstated. By mid-December, he had been removed from the U.S.

“We had no notice,” said Viviana, who wrote about her story in The New York Times. “We had no idea that he was gone until we noticed that he hadn’t called. I looked him up on the detainee locator, and his record was missing.”

Perlmutter says he has known Andazola Morales’ family for a while. Viviana was on his youth advisory council, and he spent time with her father.

Once he was detained by immigration officials last year, he and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a fellow Colorado Democrat, each introduced legislation, known as a private bill, in support of Melecio’s case and in hopes of halting his deportation.

But in May, ICE — under Trump — changed its policy to stop deferring enforcement actions in the wake of such legislation, used by members of Congress as a final effort to prevent a deportation. (Perlmutter says he has only introduced two private bills during his decade in the House.)

“I met him personally,” Perlmutter said. “We visited, and I was just very sad and angry that these policies of this administration could result in a deportation of somebody who was actually doing good things in America — raising a good family. Instead of keeping families together, the polices of this administration are to divide them.”

Tuesday night won’t be the first time that Perlmutter has brought a guest with him to the State of the Union, and it’s commonplace for members of Congress to be joined by symbolic visitors.

In 2016 he was accompanied by Sandy Philips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. Before that in 2013, Dave Hoover, whose nephew A.J. Boik was also killed in the theater shooting, was his guest.

In a conference call Friday, a senior Trump administration official said the president’s address will focus on his accomplishments and American values. Some of the president’s guests will include those who have benefited from the GOP’s recently passed tax reform legislation and those impacted by the opioid crisis, according to the White House.

The administration official said people should expect some emphasis on immigration as well.

For Viviana Andazola Marquez, whose father is trying to get back on his feet in Mexico as she looks ahead to applying for law school and becoming an immigration attorney, she hopes that people see the effects of Trump’s policies and look beyond his words.

“Trump is a TV man,” she said. “He knows how to leverage and make himself look good when he needs to. I hope that people aren’t fooled by his capacity to put on a show.”

Content originally published by the Denver Post on January 28, 2018.
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