A U.S. marine is pleading for leniency on behalf of his father, who awaits deportation to Guatemala after being detained earlier this month.
Lance Cpl. Aspar Andres, 21, returned home from his base in Hawaii in anticipation of a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan to find out that federal authorities were holding his father, Juan Andres, 41, in Louisville, KY’s Boone County Jail.
Juan Andres’s attorneys, Ron Russell and Becca O’Neil, both acknowledge that Andres came into the United States illegally 25 years ago. But they are requesting that the government grant him leniency, citing his good moral character and his son’s service in the Marines.
“I feel like that if I am serving this country, at the very least I should be able to come home and see my parents and my family,” Aspar Andres says. “Coming back home and not seeing my father – it just would not be the same.”
Juan Andres has worked for years on Kentucky farms and, with his wife, raised five children, all U.S citizens.
“He taught me that if you want something, you go for it, and you work hard at it,” says Aspar. “He was very proud of me being a Marine, and is supportive of everything I do.”
On Dec. 9, Juan Andres accompanied a friend who does not speak much English to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office at the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House in Louisville, KY. His friend was trying to post a bond for another individual.
Intending to help out, Andres instead found himself handcuffed and detained after being asked for his own identification papers.
“The way the officer saw it, he was just doing his job. He is not the supervisor there; we have been unable to reach the supervisor directly,” says O’Neil.
O’Neil further says she knows the officer who arrested Andres, and it seemed to her that he regretted to have to place in custody somebody who had been in the country for so long.
“The officer didn’t understand why Juan would walk into the ICE office in the first place,” she says.
Andres’s attorneys are requesting that he be allowed to go before an immigration judge, so he can petition to stay in the country. But because he has an old deportation order from 1995, chances for a hearing are slim. That year, he was arrested in Georgia while driving other migrant farm workers who were in the country illegally. He was deported, but made his way back into the U.S. to be reunited with his family.
According to O’Neil, the Department of Homeland Security has the discretion to either reinstate the old deportation order or give him an order for release. An order of release could pave the way for Juan to stay in the country and potentially apply for residency in the future.
“What we are asking ICE to do is so minimal compared to what the government is asking Aspar to do as a Marine,” said Russell. “You want our soldiers to not be worried about situations that are affecting their loved ones so they can serve our country with a clear heart and mind.”
Of course, not everyone feels that way.
“If he walked into an ICE office without his papers, then I think he should be deported based on stupidity,” says Rob Bass, founder of United Patriots of America, a non-partisan group that promotes strict immigration laws. “Do you think if my son is in the military and I get pulled over, and I break a law in this country, I am exonerated because I have military family? No.”
Still, Andres’ family and friends are hoping for a Christmas miracle.
Jennifer Franklin, daughter of Vallard Goode, who has employed Andres for the past 14 years at his tobacco and beef farm, says Juan was always able to provide some type of identification document.
“It devastates me to have to visit Juan in jail, and to have to speak to him through a glass,” she says. “The only law he has broken is just being here.”
As for Aspar, he says he will continue to serve his country proudly no matter what.
“It speaks to his character,” Franklin says. “I don’t know many people who could honestly continue to serve their country even after they deport their parents.”