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Immigration hearing delays put families in limbo due to partial government shutdown

Posted: 5:07 PM, Jan 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-18 21:51:13Z
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LAKE WORTH, Fla.-- The Immigration Customs Enforcement notices keep coming, even though many immigrant families are being told their cases are on pause during a partial government shutdown.

That is what Roberto Velasquez Ramirez is learning during his first week in the U.S. from Guatemala. He's taking in the moments of tranquility and security offered in the country he hopes to call home.

"I fear the process, the immigration process. I hope they give us the opportunity to seek political asylum," said Roberto in Spanish.

Roberto and his 6-year-old son arrived in Lake Worth just last week. Before that they spent almost 20 days on a dangerous journey to the U.S. "Holding back hunger, sleep, and worries," said Roberto.

His immigration status meeting is scheduled for Friday, but with a partial government shutdown he fears it won't happen for a while, like it hasn't for many others seeking help at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth.

"They're really in limbo. We've been trying to reach out to Homeland Security to get answers, but we haven't gotten any answers yet," said Daniel Morgan, an outreach case manager.

There is a nationwide backlog of more than 800,000 immigration cases. Roberto is learning this. He left Guatemala after a dangerous group in his village threatened him for trying to better his community.

"The community needed a cemetery, a football field, a tennis court. I wanted to help," said Roberto. But he said someone threatened to kill him if he continued working on projects to bring progress to the village. He made the decision to leave Guatemala to protect his family.

"I come to this country not to harm anyone, I come to work," he said.

His dream is to have a legal status and bring his wife and two other children to the U.S. "That is my dream," added Roberto.

We reached out to the regional spokesperson for the Immigration Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, but received an automated email response saying they are out of the office during the funding hiatus. We have not heard back from the national office.