Protesters gathered Wednesday outside the Chicago headquarters of Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) to try to stop the deportation of an undocumented Salvadoran whose 18-month old daughter was recently diagnosed with leukemia. If forced to go back to his home country Cristian Avalos Merino’s life would be "at risk."
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Avalos was arrested on May 14 in Cicero, Illinois, while sleeping in his parked car.
Days later, during a hearing, the 38-year-old Salvadoran learned that ICE agents had been tracking him in order to make an arrest because he had had a previous deportation, according to Ray Hanania, a local police spokesman.
The defendant is still being held in detention at the McHenry County jail in Illinois.
Since Avalos was detained months ago, his youngest of two daughters, Kamila, was diagnosed with leukemia. Nora Quiñones, his wife, already carried out an eight-day hunger strike in June to call attention to her husband's case.
“I ask ICE have compassion for my daughters, to have a little heart,” Quinonez said. “I am going to need Cristian’s support 100 percent, now more than ever,” said the mother. She told Chicago Sun Times she has no other family in the United States other than her immediate family, and needs her husband’s support, particularly at this time.
“I don’t have family here, I only have my kids,” Quinonez said. “I have no one to talk to, depend on and I am just alone in all of this right now.”
"That is why we have this protest today, so that ICE uses its discretion and releases Avalos," Irene Romulo, volunteer at Organized Communities Against Deportations (COCD), told EFE.
Romulo, along with other leaders and members of several Latinx organizations, gathered in front of the ICE offices in downtown Chicago to request a review of the controversial case.
The COCD leader told EFE that Avalos was deported once before in 2008 after fleeing El Salvador following an attack by unknown assailants who chased him with a machete. Shortly after his near-murder, strangers killed Avalos’ best friend, mistaking him for the man now in ICE custody.
"That was the reason he left his country; he received threats and his life there is at risk if he is deported," says the COCD member. The CST reports that Avalos recently applied for and was denied asylum status in the U.S. He's planning to appeal the ruling.
Avalos’s little girl receives chemotherapy twice a week and activists have created a GoFundMe page for Kamila’s medical care costs, hoping to raise US$3,000 in donations.
"It is a very sad and at the same time emblematic case of the terror that ICE transmits to all immigrants in the country," Romulo said.