At 1 a.m. on May 10, Joel Guerrero was woken up in his bunk at the ICE detainment center in New York City, and was told he was “going to court.”
Sitting in the bullpen with about 30 other detainees, Joel thought that he was about to be deported, just as he and his eight-and-a-half month pregnant wife Jessica feared.
His trepidation turned to overwhelming happiness when he was told at 5:30 a.m. that he was going to be released back to his home in New Paltz under ICE supervision. According to Joel’s attorney Dan Greene, Joel’s case is still open, but he has been granted a stay in the country.
This was two hours before Jessica found out her husband was returning home after two-and-a-half months of uncertainty and worry.
Around 9 a.m., Jessica posted on Facebook elated that Joel was released from detainment. Her timeline was then flooded with support and happiness from local New Paltzians and loved ones.
After enjoying a celebratory steak with mushroom sauce with his brother Edward Guerrero in New York City, Joel got on a train at Grand Central Station, homeward bound.
At 5 p.m., Joel walked into his home to find his nephew, Ryan Vizcaino, a sophomore at New Paltz High School, watching “Now You See Me 2.” The two embraced, and immediately began a playful banter where they poked fun at each other.
“I hope you took care of those J’s I let you borrow,” Ryan said laughing with his uncle.
After catching up and hanging out on the couch, at 5:45 p.m. Jessica’s father’s van pulled up to the driveway. A teary-eyed Jessica hopped out of the vehicle and directly into her husband’s arms. The two shared a warm embrace of relief as Joel held his wife’s stomach, realizing they will be together for the birth of their first son.
Jessica took off her necklace which had Joel’s wedding ring hanging off of it, and slipped it back onto his finger, as if to relive the day they were married.
“I had to take it off when they took me to be detained,” Joel said, admiring the gold band’s return to his left hand. “That orange jumpsuit was no good.”
In February, Joel was detained by ICE after failing to appear at one of his routine court dates in 2011. An order of removal was issued in his absence by the judge. Before his detainment, he maintained status as a permanent green card holder until a marijuana misdemeanor in 2006 resulted in his demotion to “temporary immigrant.” Additionally, to retain residency in the U.S., he was ordered to report to his respective ICE officer every six months for a status update, his absence of which in 2011 resulted in his order of removal. Things were not looking good after the family’ motion to reconsider was denied.
Jessica’s due date is predicted to be June 1 — over the past few weeks, she has been preparing herself for the possibility that she may have to give birth without Joel’s presence.
“I know that plenty of women do it when their husbands are deployed or away,” Jessica said. “I give them so much credit because I don’t know how I would have gotten through the rest of this pregnancy without him.”
Both Jessica and Joel emphasized their gratefulness to the New Paltz community for all the love and support provided to them. Since the day Jessica posted on Facebook about Joel’s detainment, she has received support and help from New Paltz residents she did not know prior.
People offered Jessica food and rides to the grocery store — even the driver of the bus she takes everyday to work was elated to find out that Joel was returning home today.
“At first when this all happened I felt so alone,” Jessica said. “I thought that I had to deal with this alone, as his wife. The love and support I have received is so extremely unbelievable.”
Friends Cathy Joiner and Marlene Alfieri stuck out specifically in Jessica’s mind when asked who helped her the most during Joel’s time away.
“I’m from the Bronx, so this type of community is new to me,” Joel said. “It is so awesome knowing that there are good hearted people
around, I was very comforted by that fact.”
For Ryan, the New Paltz Youth Center and high school helped him in staying hopeful that his uncle will return safe.
“I was assured to keep concentrating on my future and what’s right in front of me,” Ryan said. “Life can be really scary, you just have to go through it, I really give credit to all my friends for being there for me.”
For his first dinner back at home, Joel, Jessica and Ryan are going to local Japanese resturant Hokkaido.
“I like that restaurant,” Joel said. “It’s a quiet scene, which is exactly what I need right now.”