New Fairfield Man Facing Deportation to Guatemala: "I'm Not A Criminal"

Jul 28, 2017

A New Fairfield man ordered to be deported to his native Guatemala says he could be at risk of violence or kidnapping if he returns. Joel Colindres came to the United States illegally in 2004. He married a U.S. citizen in 2010 and they have two young children.

"If I go back there, it’s going to be a risk of being kidnapped -- or a risk of people taking advantage of the situation," Colindres said in a phone interview with WNPR.

Colindres said he wouldn’t want to bring his family to Guatemala. The country is ranked as one of the 25 most dangerous nations in the world, according to the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council.

A rally was held Thursday for Colindres at the federal courthouse in Hartford. Last week, Joel Colindres was ordered by U.S Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to return to Guatemala by August 17. He had to show immigration officials on Thursday that he purchased a one-way plane ticket to Guatemala as evidence that he would leave the country.

“We got one, and then -- it’s crazy that you’re looking for your own pass to a different country when you don’t want to leave,” Colindres said. “I’m not a criminal, you know? I’m following the rules, I’ve filed the right paperwork.”  

Colindres said he had regularly checked in with immigration officials and was granted stays from a deportation order. But he said his most recent stay request was denied.

Immigration attorney Larry Delgado represents Colindres. He said ICE's order is surprising given Colindres's circumstances.

"He's never been arrested and that's a very important fact," Delgado said. "He pays his taxes. He's a hard working man family man. They have their own home."

Equally surprising for the family is the fact that earlier this year, ICE approved an application by Colindres’s wife to sponsor her husband's visa.

ICE's original order for removal stems from a missed court date more than a decade ago. Delgado said attempts to reopen that case have been unsuccessful, so they filed paperwork -- what’s called an I-212 -- in May to reapply for admission to the United States.

“Our I-212 is really to try and waive that removal order so that he can proceed to legalize his status without breaking up the family, and all of the ramifications that is involved with that,” Delgado said.

Delgado said that unlike Nury Chavarria -- an undocumented mother of four who sought asylum in a New Haven church after being ordered to leave the country -- Colindres won’t seek asylum and will return to Guatemala if his request to stay in the country is denied.