My name is Michelle C. Suarez. I arrived to the United States and have been living in Miami, FL since I was 12 years old with my parents and my brother, who was 9. I am now 21 years old, and also have a 6-year-old brother who is a United States Citizen.
I am writing this letter pleading for help on behalf of my family. My parents fled to this country in 2003 from the Chavez supporters after multiple attempts on their lives. They only wanted to give my brother and I a better opportunity, and to not live in fear. We came here legally when I was 12 years old, and my brother was 9. We have gone to school and I have graduated from high school, and I’m trying to go to college. My parents also had another child while we have lived here in the United States, who is now 6 years old.
We applied for asylum in 2005, and hired someone for legal counsel that told us he was a lawyer, but we didn’t know that we were being taken advantage of until we learned he was actually an accountant. Also, we had applied for the asylum a year and a month too late and were not granted it. So we had to go to court for it, and we hired someone different for legal counsel, who was actually a lawyer. The day of our court appointment, our lawyer told my dad before going into the courtroom that the judge was not very lenient, and to “only say yes or no” to anything he asked. So my dad did what he was advised, and it ended up being the only reason why the judge did not grant us asylum.
My dad asked the lawyer what his options were, and he told him that he could appeal, get married, or go to Canada, but appealing would be very expensive. My dad wanted to get residency the legal and proper way, so he decided not to get married.
We decided to go to Canada, but the asylum was also denied to us because we had not gone 3 miles into the country before asking for asylum, and didn’t have any immediate family members living there. When we got back to the United States, the immigration officer told my dad that we didn’t have an Order for Deportation on my family, so they let us come back to Florida.
We had already sold our stuff to live in Canada, so we moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, where my brother and I attended high school, which I graduated from. We lived there for 3 years waiting for news about new immigration laws that could help us become residents of the United States in a legal way, while my dad worked full time in Fort Lauderdale at 2 jobs to support us.
On January 11, 2012, at around 6:30 A.M, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers surrounded my house, and demanded to search it looking for my dad. The only people in the house were my mom, my 2 brothers, and my boyfriend of 4 years. When they searched the house and saw that my dad was not there, they told us that they wanted to take my mom, brother, and I, but they couldn’t right away because my 6-year-old brother was sleeping and he was a United States Citizen. We ended up receiving an Order of Supervision, and told us to report the 17th of January to an Immigration office in Tampa with my dad. We went to the office on the date given to us with my dad, having specifically been told that he would receive the Order of Supervision as well and would not be detained. After 2 hours of waiting for my dad to finish with the officers, they told us that they were going to detain him and take him to a transition center. I wasn’t even able to hug my dad good bye. The last time I talked to my dad was through a glass window, while my mom and dad were crying. He was taken to Broward Transitional Center.
Please understand, my dad is not a bad person. He has no criminal record, and has never been charged with anything. No one in my family is a criminal. We have other family here in the United States that are residents and citizens. All my parents tried to do was gain citizenship legally, and they were taken advantage of and punished for no reason. I have lived here for almost 10 years, and my little brother was born here and doesn’t know anything different. We are struggling to even find the money to hire a lawyer to get my dad out, since he was the sole breadwinner in my household. We are too scared to go back to Venezuela, and we have nothing to go back to.
Please have mercy on my dad. We just want the opportunity to be able to stay in the United States. So my brother and I can go to college, so my little brother can grow up here. It breaks my heart whenever he asks to see his dad, we just don’t know what to tell him. How do you explain to a 6-year-old that we are getting kicked out of the country when we haven’t done anything bad? Please help us, I don’t know what to do anymore, I just want to see dad again.
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