A New Paltz man who is a permanent U.S. resident was detained by immigration agents earlier this week due to a missed court date from seven years ago.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained Joel Guerrero of New Paltz for missing a court date in 2010 for a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana. Multiple calls to his wife Jessica Decker Guerrero, as well as his brother Tommy, were not returned. However, according to a public post on her Facebook page, Jessica said that Joel was taken into custody, had his green card confiscated and was neither offered nor provided a lawyer. This was confirmed by Joel’s brother, Edward Guerrero.
“This situation is ridiculous,” Edward said. “When you look at a man, you look at him for what he is doing right now, not for the past, especially when the court date was for something so trivial. We aren’t talking about a serious offense here.”
According to Jessica, ICE agents told her on the morning of Wednesday, March 1 to surrender Joel’s passport. At the advice of her legal counsel, Jessica refused and has instead filed motions to delay a possible deportation. Jessica also received a phone call from Joel stating that an officer overseeing his case told him that he would be deported “as soon as possible.”
“This is our country today. This is America. This is a firsthand account of what is being enforced,” Jessica said in her Facebook post. “I post this as a reminder of what we are fighting for. I post this as a wife and mother separated from her husband because of policies imposed by the family values platform. Lastly, I post this begging each and every one of you to hold your loved ones close tonight. I won’t be with my husband for a long while and I want you all to be grateful. This is real life, this is what we are up against.”
Jessica said that she had reached out to the offices of both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. John Faso to see if they could assist in any way. She said that both offices were receptive and mentioned that people have been reaching out on their behalf. Jessica also said that she intends to contact the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer as well.
Lawrence Clayton, a member of Indivisible Ulster County, a progressive political action group, said that he and others have been making phone calls to Faso’s office urging him to look into Joel’s case.
“It’s a scary thing to see happening, especially in our own neighborhood,” Clayton said.
Additionally, on Thursday, March 2, the New Paltz Town Board voted 4-0 to send a letter on behalf of the Guerrero family to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which is overseen by the Department of Justice. In the letter, the board said:
The New Paltz Town Board respectfully asks that you give all due consideration to Joel Guerrero. Joel is a resident of New Paltz along with his wife Jessica. The two are expecting a child in a few months and wish to grow their family in our community.
It is our understanding that Joel faces deportation due to a misdemeanor charge and a missed court date from nearly a decade ago. We believe that punishments should fit the crime and we respectfully ask that you do not allow this incident to tear apart a family.
It is our hope that Joel will be reunited with his wife Jessica and start a family together in New Paltz.
At the end of her post, Jessica asked for her husband’s story to be shared, saying, “Anything and everything helps at this point.”
According to Edward, after the family found out that Joel had not been offered legal counsel, they reached out to a lawyer the day Joel was detained. The lawyer has filed a motion to reconsider, and has received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice and the New York City Immigration Court that the motion has been acknowledged.
The Guerrero family is originally from the Dominican Republic, but now lives in New York State. Joel and Tommy reside in New Paltz, while Edward resides in New York City. Joel has not yet received a date to come before the court with the motion to reconsider, however, Edward said that he expects their lawyer to give them a date within the next few days.