MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Guatemalan man who is in the removal process of being deported from Minnesota fears for his life if he is forced to return to his home country.
Family and friends of 28-year-old Luciano Mejia Morales rallied for his release outside the Hennepin County jail Tuesday afternoon. His advocates said what would be a traffic ticket for most people could end up costing Mejia Morales his life.
With help from a translator, the brother of Luciano Mejia Morales begged for his brother not to be deported.
“We are very close, very united,” Miguel Mejia Morales said.
Luciano Mejia Morales’ family and attorney said the 28-year-old has been in Minnesota for 14 years, works as a janitor and is an active labor union member.
His attorney, Veronica Walthers, said her client was pulled over for running a traffic signal, then arrested. Walthers said he has no driver’s license because of his immigration status.
Walthers said family and friends pooled their money to bail Mejia Morales out of the Hennepin County Jail for $3,000.
“He was given his property back and was able to call a friend who was waiting for him,” Walthers said. “Between that call and him meeting up with his friend, he was picked up by immigration.”
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said in a March news conference that local law enforcement cannot enforce federal immigration laws, but has a responsibility to inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when a person of interest to them is released from the Hennepin County Jail.
Moving forward, Walthers is appealing to the U.S. government to allow Mejia Morales to stay because his work as a union organizer would make him a target for gangs in Guatemala.
“If it is a minor criminal issue someone should not be sent to immigration and be at risk of being deported and removed to a country where they might risk their life like Luciano is in the process right now,” Walthers said.
Walthers said Mejia Morales has no serious criminal record and he was deported once before after another traffic incident in 2009.