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New Year's dawning brings only fear for Guatemalan man's family

Marco Gonzalez and his family are in tears. His fate, and he fears that of his family, hangs on a question of whether he will be forced to return to his native Guatemala while an appeal for political asylum filed in the early 1990s is considered.

This is a case that perhaps reflects U.S. immigration law at its most convoluted, and provides an example of why it is so important for anyone in Florida with immigration issues should work closely with experienced legal counsel. 

Gonzalez came to Florida in 1993. Shortly afterward, he applied for political asylum, citing the threats of violent guerrilla forces that had tortured and jailed him because he opposed them. In the intervening years, he has renewed his visas, worked steadily, married and now has five U.S.-born children. They live in Detroit.

For some reason, his asylum application became lost and only reached a judge in 2007. The determination at that time was that the threat of violence was gone and that Gonzalez should go home. But Gonzalez says the guerrillas simply became criminal gangs and that threats of retaliation are still very real.

Making matters more difficult in regard to the asylum request is that Gonzalez is a felon, convicted of check fraud. But there are questions about whether that might have been failure of the legal system.

It happened shortly after his arrival in the U.S. He says he was working for a baker about 90 hours a week for about $300 at the time. He asked the boss for some extra money to send home to his sick father. He was given a check, but when he tried to cash it, it bounced and he was arrested.

Not knowing English or the U.S. legal system, he says he took his attorney's advice and pleaded guilty. He served some jail time, completed 15 hours of community service, a year of probation, and moved on with his life. He has never been in trouble with the law since and has been working at his current job since 1999.

Gonzalez was to have left for Guatemala by Dec. 30. As of the writing of this post, he remains in the country hoping he can stay with his family. There is no word of officials taking action against him.

Source: MLive, "Guatemalan immigrant fights to stay in Detroit with wife, children after receiving holiday deportation order," Gus Burns, Dec. 27, 2013

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