Nine-year-old begs Biden to stop his father’s deportation

'It makes me very sad to see other parents playing with their children,' boy says

Louise Hall
Thursday 04 February 2021 18:49
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A 9-year-old boy has launched a desperate plea to the Biden administration to stop his father’s deportation to Guatemala over fears they may be separated from him a third time.

Fernando Ochoa gave his attorney a letter he wrote to Mr Biden asking him in Spanish "from my heart that you let my dad go free” on Wednesday, NBC News reported.

"I feel very sad for my dad who is not with me. During Christmas, I was sad for my dad who was not with me,” the letter reads, according to the outlet.

“It makes me very sad to see other parents playing with their children because I can't play with my dad nor receive a hug from my dad."

The boy and his father, Ubaldo Ochoa Lopez, fled Guatemala over two years ago to seek asylum in the US but the pair had been separated by immigration authorities under Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

Under the policy, thousands of children were sent to holding facilities, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles from where their parents were being held for criminal prosecution.

"During the first 35 days of those two months, Ubaldo couldn't even contact Fernando. So those 35 days of zero contact, not knowing what was going on, were very traumatic for both of them," Andani Alcantara, their attorney, said in a news conference Wednesday.

After they were reunited, the pair continued legal efforts for asylum but were separated again in October after Mr Lopez was convicted of driving while intoxicated, Ms Alcantara said.

Erika Andiola, chief of advocacy for immigrant rights advocacy group RAICES, said during the conference that Mr Lopez "went through the criminal justice system" when he was charged and convicted last year.

However, Mr Lopez has been detained in the Pearsall Detention Center in Texas for four months and is in danger of being deported back to Guatemala.

Fernando Ochoa gave his attorney a letter he wrote to Biden asking him in Spanish to let his father ‘go free'

"It was only a Class B misdemeanor, but ICE has treated it as a huge crime and has decided that it is enough reason not to allow Ubaldo to be with his child, who doesn't have another parent in the US," Ms Alcantara said.

She added: "The reality is that ICE always has the discretion to let anybody out of detention, and they are choosing not to.

"And here that's harming his child, who's 9 years old and cries on the phone with Ubaldo because he hasn't seen his dad in so long."

Mr Biden has ordered a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however, Texas attorney general and Trump ally Ken Paxton successfully sued to block the order and was granted a 14-day temporary restraining order.

Within the last week, ICE deported nearly 300 people from the US to Guatemala and Honduras, and immigration and advocacy groups have warned that ICE could remove dozens of other people.

The Department of Homeland Security still has the ability to stop ICE from deporting Mr Lopez, RAICES said.

Ms Alcantara said she has completed multiple requests to ICE calling for Mr Lopez's release "in multiple times and in multiple ways" including under the new administration on Monday.

ICE has not commented on the case and did not respond to an email seeking comment from NBC News.

'"If Ubaldo is sent back to Guatemala, Fernando is left here without any parent,” Ms Alcantara said,

She said that this move would be “harmful enough in itself, but given his history of prior forceful separations by the government, it would be really harmful for him,” adding that he would be left "to fight his asylum case on his own."

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