A father in a Chicago suburb is in a fight to stay in the U.S. as his youngest daughter is in a fight against cancer.
In May, Cristian Avalos-Merino was sleeping in his car in west suburban Cicero. Police found an open container of alcohol and he was taken into custody.
What would have been a minor penalty in most places is a much bigger problem for the 36-year-old Berwyn resident, who is now facing deportation back to his native El Salvador.
And the timing couldn’t be any worse for his family after his 18-month-old daughter Kamilla was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this month.
“Today we are here specifically demanding that ICE release Cristian Avalos-Merino. ICE has the power to do so. ICE has discretion to do so,” Irene Romulo of Organized Citizens Against Deportations, said while demonstrating outside the downtown Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Activists are demanding ICE release Avalos-Merino so he can help care for her, as well as his other daughter, with his longtime partner Nora Quinonez.
Xanat Sobrevilla of Latino Union of Chicago has followed Avalos-Merino’s case and is assisting in his efforts to be granted asylum.
A judge denied that request at a hearing in August, Sobrevilla said.
On Tuesday, the groups petitioned to ICE officials directly.
“ICE has total discretion to release him. They have used that in the past especially today after we hear that his youngest has been diagnosed with cancer,” Sobrevilla said.
“We know that in the past they have released families so they have the complete power. We are asking for his total release.”
ICE describes Avalos-Merino as a convicted criminal and repeat immigration violator.
On May 14, ICE filed an immigration detainer with Cicero police. However, ICE said it arrested Avalos-Marino upon his release from Cicero police.
“Avalos-Guerrero was previously removed in October 2013. He has a felony conviction for assaulting a peace officer (March 2013) and a driving under the influence [DUI] conviction (March 2013) in Will County, Illinois,” ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in a statement.
Another activist Brenda Bedolla, a Cicero resident, takes aim at the Cicero Police Department for contacting ICE.
“I denounce the Town of Cicero’s police department’s actions in turning Cristian over to immigration agents,” Bedolla said. He needs to be next to his family during this difficult time.”
Avalos-Marino had been held at the McHenry County Detention Center until he was recently moved to the ICE detention center in downtown Chicago.
Cicero police could not be reached for comment.
Michael Puente covers Chicago and Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.