On the morning of November 13, long-time Colorado resident Jorge Rafael Zaldivar Mendieta was detained at a routine Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-in when officials said a pending challenge to his deportation would not prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from removing him to México. Citing ICE’s plans for his imminent deportation, Zaldivar’s lawyers were able to obtain a court order temporarily halting his removal. Despite him not being a flight risk, and the harsh impact on his family, ICE continues to detain Zaldivar at the GEO facility in Aurora, CO. (Cover photo: Christina Zaldivar, and her husband, Jorge, before an ICE check-in in Colorado.)
An error by U.S. consular officials resulted in Zaldivar being wrongfully denied residence. Even though U.S. officials confirmed the mishandling of his case, DHS has refused to fix the mistake. When Zaldivar was sent to the immigration judge, the government again erred, using faulty paperwork to start his deportation.
Zaldivar, who is married to a U.S. citizen, has spent more than a decade trying to obtain legal residence. An error by U.S. consular officials resulted in Zaldivar being wrongfully denied residence. Even though U.S. officials confirmed the mishandling of his case, DHS has refused to fix the mistake. When Zaldivar was sent to the immigration judge, the government again erred, using faulty paperwork to start his deportation. Despite other federal court decisions holding that such a deportation would be unlawful, DHS insists that there is nothing to stop them from removing Zaldivar to México where he would be unable to even start the process of returning to his family for ten years.
“ICE has needlessly detained yet another individual who is not a flight risk, not a danger to our community and who is just exercising their right to have a court review the legality of their deportation. It is quite concerning that DHS would go to this effort to deport someone before a court has had the chance to review their challenges. Even worse, the government knows that the underlying deportation case relied on legal theories that other federal courts have already found is unlawful. There is simply no reason to force Mr. Zaldivar to leave before he’s had the judicial review that he’s entitled to,” said Zaldivar’s attorney, Laura Lichter, Lichter Immigration.
Lichter conceded that–technically–ICE has the right to remove Zaldivar, however she stressed that DHS has the discretion to leave the family together pending his court challenge. “Just because they can deport him, doesn’t mean they should. There is no harm to letting Mr. Zaldivar remain with his family while his case makes its way through the review process.” To the contrary, Lichter added, “removing him now will have a devastating impact on his family and his legal rights.”
“Jorge is well loved and relied upon not just by his family, but by his community here in Colorado. ICE is relying on technicalities to detain and deport Jorge before he gets full review of his case–on an issue that the government has already lost on in other circuits. The immigration system, and our country, has failed the Zaldivar family. This case is a prime example of why discretion exists and why we urgently need profound changes to our immigration laws,” said Gabriela Flora, Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee in Colorado.
“My husband went to his check-in because we believe in following the law and respecting what is asked of him. Jorge has shown up for all of his check-ins to date,” said Christina Zaldivar, Jorge’s wife. “Jorge has proven time and time again that he is not a flight risk. He’s not a danger. He’s just a husband, a father, trying to do everything right to be able to legally be here for his family.”
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