When 9-year-old Fernando Ochoa fled Guatemala with his father Ubaldo Ochoa Lopez two years ago, he never knew he would be writing a letter to the President of the United States pleading with him to stop his father from being deported.
“I feel very sad for my dad who is not with me,” Ochoa wrote, according to an article by NBC Latino. “During Christmas, I was sad for my dad who was not with me. It makes me very sad to see other parents playing with their children because I can’t play with my dad nor receive a hug from my dad.”
If Lopez is sent back to Guatemala, this will be the third time that father and son are separated. When they traveled to the U.S. to seek asylum during the Trump administration, Ochoa was taken from his father as part of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that was carried out to deter people from crossing the border undocumented.
Father and son were reunited two months later but Ochoa was taken away a second time when ICE detained Ochoa after he was convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated).
“It was only a Class B misdemeanor, but ICE has treated it as a huge crime,” Ochoa’s attorney Andani Alcantara told NBC Latino. “It has decided that it is enough reason not to allow Ubaldo to be with his child, who doesn’t have another parent in the U.S.”
Currently, Lopez is in an ICE detention center in Pearsall, Texas. On Monday, the Biden administration announced new policies on immigration enforcement, which Alcantara says she hopes helps Lopez’s case since ICE is supposed to prioritize aggravated felons.
“If Ubaldo is sent back to Guatemala, Fernando is left here without any parent, which is harmful enough in itself,” she says. “But given his history of prior forceful separations by the government, it would be really harmful for him.”