Mario Flores and Rinaldo Lago have been together for 7 years, they own a home together, and last year were married in New York. Last April 15, 2014, Mario and Rinaldo went to the immigration offices for their I-130 interview, seeking to change Mario’s immigration status. At the end of the interview, they were told that they had been approved. Minutes later, Mario got asked back into the room, and taken into immigration custody and detention. That was the last time Rinaldo saw his husband as a free man.
Mario is now detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility where he could be deported at any time, away from his husband and the rest of his family. He has also told Rinaldo that he is constantly subject to anti-gay slurs. Recently, the guards placed him in solitary confinement, a deplorable practice that has become routine for LGBT detainees.
Mario immigrated to the US in 1994 as a permanent resident. He attended school, finished his GED, and has filed his taxes every year. He is deeply religious and committed to his family and his community. He was taken into custody by ICE because of an incident that happened 20 years ago. In 1997, when he was about 18 years old, he pled guilty to three petty theft misdemeanors. He served a few days sentence, paid his fines and penalty, and went on with his life.
In 2001, Mario flew to Perú for his cousin’s funeral, but when he was coming back to the country he was interviewed by ICE, lost his residency status, and was placed in deportation proceedings. In 2001, he was ordered deported, but fearing violence due to his sexual orientation, and because most of his family was in the U.S., he decided to stay. Life has been hard for Mario since then, constantly fearing being stopped by ICE. In 2003, he was drugged and raped, an incident which he did not report because he feared being turned over to ICE custody. He contracted HIV from that incident.
Although these incidents are from 20 and 10 years ago, immigration detained Mario and could deport him at any time. Please help us keep this family together.
UPDATE: On Friday May 9th Mario was released. He was granted a stay of removal for 6 months while his husband and him apply for adjustment of status. Read his thank you e-mail here.
To: John Tsoukaris, Newark Field Office Director;
Mark Vogler, Newark ICE Field Office Assistant Director;
I am writing because I am very concerned with the potential deportation of Mr. Mario Flores (A 043 945 828). Mr. Flores has been in the United States for over 20 years, he is married to a U.S. citizen, Mr. Rinaldo Lago, and has strong ties to his community, including his parents, 3 siblings, and numerous other relatives, and he has finished his General Education Degree. He was detained after his I-130 petition was approved during his interview for a change of status on April 15, 2013. Since then, Mr. Flores is currently detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility, and is facing imminent deportation.
In addition, Mr. Flores is the victim of a rape in 2003, however, because he had previously been ordered deported and was scared of being detained, he did not report the crime. Unfortunately, he was infected with HIV after this rape, which changed his life entirely. He fears going back to Peru, his country of birth, precisely due to his sexuality and his HIV status, due to the existent violence against LGBT people and HIV positive people, in addition to the lack of medical resources available to people in his situation. In addition, he would be unable to continue living with his husband as a married couple, since marriage between same-sex couples is not legal in Peru.
I understand that Mr. Flores has some negative factors in his case, according to ICE guidelines, including a deportation from 2001, and non-violent misdemeanors from 16 years ago, committed while he was a teenager. However, I believe the positive factors are stronger than the negative, in particular the 20 years he has lived in the United States, his marriage to Mr. Lago, his numerous US citizen relatives and other connections to his community. In addition, his life would be at risk if removed to Peru, as a survivor of rape, HIV positive and out gay individual. He is currently waiting to hear back from a Stay of Deportation filed by his attorney on April 18, 2014, I urge you to exercise prosecutorial discretion in his case and stop his deportation.
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