By David Cruz
For Catalino Guerrero, the short walk from the parking lot to the front door of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Newark is especially long today. It’s his regularly scheduled check in, required since ICE ordered him deported last year. Despite two six-month stays of the deportation order, Guerrero and his family are afraid that he’ll be detained and never see the light of day in the states again.
“Everything I’ve earned I’ve put back into this country,” he said. “I have my house, but what I really don’t want is to leave my family. I don’t want us to be separated.”
Family and friends of Guerrero, a father of four who lives in Union City, gathered in front of the Newark office of ICE to call on President Obama to issue an executive order that would allow individuals like Catalino – who’s been here for over 20 years and has established ties in the community – to stay in the country, but that order is yet to be issued and Catalino faces deportation in three days.
“He doesn’t have family in Mexico,” said daughter Veronica. “He doesn’t have nothing over there. We don’t want to let him go. Please, to the people that have to be in charge of this, just don’t separate my family. We need him.”
Suffering from diabetes and the after effects of a stroke, Catalino’s family fears he won’t survive deportation. There are literally thousands of stories like Catalino’s. People who made it into this country through the cracks of a broken immigration system and are now being forced to leave in much the same way.
“It’s very fixable. I mean it’s not very difficult,” said Christian Zamarron, who organizes around issues of immigration for New Jersey Communities United. He says part of the problem with the system is that it’s become an immigration industrial complex.
“Here in New Jersey we have plenty of detention centers that are private and those detention centers have owners and those owners are involved in the political process,” he points out. “Essex County has a $40-million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They have an incentive to keep targeting families and to keep detaining more and more people.”
Late today, Guerrero was allowed to go home. Family members say ICE officials asked for further documentation, which gives them hope that the case is being taken seriously, but no guarantee that come Thursday, Catalino won’t be forced to leave the only family he has.