ICE in the Age of Trump: Two Deportation Stories
An HIV-positive man who probably cannot get his medication in his home country and a U.S. veteran who has served two tours in Afghanistan could soon be deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
After living in the United States for 15 years, Ricardo Querales, a hair stylist in Miami, was issued an order of deportation during his most recent check-in with ICE officers. Querales is HIV-positive, and his survival depends on medicine that is not likely to be available to him in his home country of Venezuela. ABC News reports that Querales told the ICE officer, “You’re sending me to my death.”
Amid the political and social turmoil in recent years in Venezuela, some medication has become difficult to obtain. Querales, who first arrived in the United States in 2003, said he fled his country to escape the oppressive regime of then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. A judge shortly thereafter granted Querales’ asylum request. Three years later, Querales learned he was HIV-positive.
Querales’ lawyer, Marcial De Sautu, believes Querales has a strong case against deportation. He told ABC News, “I’ve spoken to many of his treating physicians who have indicated to me that his removal from the United States to Venezuela will put his life in danger.”
However, Querales’ case could be weakened by his two drug-related arrests. The first was in 2009, for the possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to use. That run-in with law enforcement came after a friend who had borrowed Querales’ car ended up fatally overdosing on drugs and crashing the vehicle. The police tracked the car to Querales’ address and found methamphetamines when they searched his house. This has the potential to complicate his case with ICE, despite reports that turning to substance abuse to cope with HIV is common.
The Miami Herald writes of Querales:
Within three years, he joined the increasing number of gay Latino men who are HIV positive. Between 2006 — the year he discovered he was HIV positive — and 2015, HIV diagnoses in Miami-Dade County among Latino men increased by 70 percent, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health. …
He was arrested a second time following a police raid at a house that he was visiting. No charges were filed against Querales, but he was turned over to ICE custody and spent six months in detention. It was during this time that his political asylum was revoked.
Miguel Perez Jr., a U.S. military veteran, has learned that two tours in Afghanistan and a severe case of PTSD may not save him from deportation after a 2010 drug conviction. Perez is being held at an ICE detention center in Kenosha, Wis., awaiting a decision on his potential deportation to Mexico, which he left more than three decades ago as an 8-year-old child.
Though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has provisions in place to expedite troops’ naturalization process, the applicant must demonstrate “good moral character.” Perez has several factors working against his case: He was convicted on a felony drug charge in 2010 (which caused him to lose his green card), discharged from the Army for drug use, and never applied for citizenship, despite eligibility to do so in 1994. Deportation would separate him from his family, including his two children, in the United States.
The substance-abuse and mental-health counseling he desperately needs would not be readily available in Mexico, he said. He also predicts that drug cartels would recruit him because of his combat experience and murder him if he didn’t cooperate.
So he started a hunger strike Wednesday, not long after his latest setback in federal court.
“If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time?” he asked.
“There is a saying that goes, ‘I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.’ In Mexico, I will have to live in fear, like a coward. No. I’d rather die right here, like a man fighting against something that makes no sense — this thing of deporting veterans does not make sense even if they try to justify with the law.”
Perez suffered from initially undiagnosed PTSD after leaving the Army. He told CNN, “I saw many horrible things, things I can only, until this day, speak about with a mental-health specialist and even then, after I say them, the nightmares start up again. They are things that happened to me personally, that happened to others, and to Afghans themselves—12-, 11-year-old kids split in half by 50-caliber bullets at our hands. These are things that you never forget and sometimes, when you try to forget, they come back at night.”
He says it is after these symptoms that he became addicted to drugs and drank heavily, but that once he was in prison for the 2010 drug charge he was able to receive treatment.
“It was in prison that I was finally able to get the treatment I needed for my PTSD,” he said. “They had a lot of substance abuse programs, and now is when I finally feel like the person I used to be. I won’t say a new person, but like when I was younger.”
Perez had served half his sentence when ICE began deportation proceedings, with a judge ordering his removal in March 2017.
“I went through the system and I accepted all of the consequences that came with declaring myself guilty of a crime, the way it should be,” Perez said. “And now they want to deport me with nothing, without thinking to themselves that I sacrificed my life fighting for this country.”