APRIL 27, 2017
Marco Aurelio Coello was tortured in Venezuela before he left that country to seek asylum in the United States.
Coello is an activist who took part in a protest in 2014 in opposition to the regime of Nicolás Maduro when he was a high school student.
In due course the protest he attended became violent.
Coello was tear-gassed and arrested on charges of inciting violence before being tortured according to his lawyer. He was subsequently released due to what was labeled as psychological problems.
While awaiting trial in Venezuela the 19 year old student recognized the fact that he had no choice but to flee the country; the alternative could be facing a decade or more in prison because of his participation in the political demonstration.
In 2015 he told a local journalist that he knew he had no choice but to leave his homeland.
Shortly after the decision was made he quickly made preparations to leave, aided with his father Armando’s help. Speaking through a translator, the older Coello told a reporter that he “helped his son to get out of Venezuela”.
His immigration attorney only had good things to say about her client.
She told 7 News in Miami that he was considered a gentleman and a Venezuelan hero. She went on to call him a man “who was fighting for the freedom of expression” in his native country. He was simply asking for asylum from a corrupt regime where his safety and freedom were in jeopardy.
On April 25 of this year while waiting for his asylum interview to be expedited, he was abruptly arrested by two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers as he was waiting for the routine hearing on his asylum request at an Immigration Services Office in Miami.
Upon his arrest and detention, he was now facing the possibility of deportation.
When asked by Coello’s lawyer why they were taking such unforeseen action, the agents only told that ‘He’s an overstay.’
She acknowledged their dilemma but noted that the situation was only due to the government delaying his interview.
She continued by saying that “Coello is just fighting for freedom and is not a criminal”.
On the same day his detention took place, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 76 people as part of massive Florida sweep, 16 of them residing in Miami-Dade County.
ICE maintained that Coello had two prior criminal misdemeanor convictions, and did not leave the country in accordance with his visitor’s visa.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a press release relating to the case as follows:
“Marco Coello has one misdemeanor criminal conviction and did not depart the country in accordance with his visa. As a result, he violated the terms of his nonimmigrant status in the United States. As Secretary Kelly has stated, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
After careful investigation by Coello’s lawyer, it was found that ICE was mistaken and there was only the single conviction.
The crime was misdemeanor possession of marijuana which was eventually knocked down to trespassing.
The incident happened in September of last year in McLean, Virginia.
According to police, Coello & an unidentified companion stopped their vehicle near the scene of an automobile accident investigation.
Fairfax County police were conducting traffic control and when they approached the car that Coello was driving, he rolled down his widow and asked the officer for directions.
The officer believed he smelled marijuana leading to an analysis for drug related charges.
The charges were ultimately reduced to trespassing.
Coello’s attorney disputed the account of the police officer and said that her client was cited for sleeping in his vehicle in a parking lot without paying the required fee.
A spokesperson for the Fairfax County police said she didn’t know why the charges were changed, leaving the door open for Coello’s attorney to state that “he was never charged with anything to do with drugs, anyway,” and go on to say “We don’t know why that report [the marijuana charge] exists. We don’t know if it’s some kind of computer glitch.”
After being convicted of the trespassing charge in Virginia, Coello paid a total of $192.00 court costs and fines, according to the court documents.
The day after his arrest, Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-FL) took an interest in the case and asked the White House to intervene which eventually led to his release from the Krome Detention Center.
However, officials from ICE gave no suggestion that they would no longer pursue deportation; stating that his misdemeanor conviction violated the terms of his stay in the US.
In spite of the charges still being completely unsettled, Coello stated upon his release that “I’m good, very good, excited and confused but happy for liberty,” after being reunited with his parents.
And at least, for the moment, Coello is free, and now awaiting his hearing for political asylum which his lawyer believes will happen within the coming months.
The rules relating to cases involving immigration have drastically changed since the initiation of the new Administration on January 20, 2017.
Where it was common place to detain and then release undocumented individuals, now these same examples can likely lead to deportation.
In cases where persons who are undocumented have also been convicted of a crime, in a majority of these situations, deportation is basically a certainty.
If you, a loved one, or someone you care about fits this criterion, it is essential that an immigration lawyer is hired.
In the case where these conditions are met, and a criminal conviction for any felony or misdemeanor is involved, you’ll also require an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
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