Deportation threatens Basalt family’s dream
BASALT – Hector Morales Jr. achieved the American dream this spring. The Basalt High School senior who grew up in a blue-collar family worked his tail off to earn a national scholarship that will provide a full ride to a university.
Morales was accepted by Duke University in April and plans to start classes in August to pursue a degree in engineering.
“We were ecstatic,” Morales said. “I personally felt at the top of the world at that moment. I felt like all my hard work paid off.”
His parents – Hector Morales Sr. and Norma Galindo Gonzales – were relieved to secure the necessary funds for Morales to attend a top university.
“My parents felt very proud,” Morales said.
Their elation evaporated May 1. Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up his mother and took her to a detention center in Aurora for a deportation hearing.
“She was picked up at 7:30 in the morning right before I went off to school,” Morales said. He went to school despite the disruption, but his mind was focused on his mom’s situation.
“That day was very chaotic for me,” he said. “It all happened so quickly.”
He made calls to people from his church and other civic leaders to make them aware of his mother’s detention and to seek help in what felt like a helpless situation. She hasn’t had a deportation hearing yet. Morales said his family is still uncertain when it will occur. Meanwhile, Morales has been splitting attention between his final tests at high school and his mother’s situation.
“It’s been very hard,” he said. “I’ve had to stay strong for my mother, brother and dad. It seems like my workload has doubled.”
Morales said he couldn’t discuss his mother’s legal situation because the proceedings are ongoing. Galindo Gonzales’ attorney, Ted Hess, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported Saturday that Galindo Gonzales was taken into custody by ICE on a removal order issued in 2005 and upheld in 2008. Galindo Gonzales, 39, is allegedly an undocumented Mexican citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 21 years, the paper reported.
Hess has filed for a stay of deportation for Galindo Gonzales, in part on the grounds that a 2011 policy adopted by ICE gives prosecutors more discretion on whether to pursue deportation, the Post Independent reported. Hess argued that Galindo Gonzales is a good candidate for positive discretion by ICE.
Morales’ father has an approved immigration visa, according to the motion, and Morales, 18, can seek an immigration visa for his mother when he turns 21.
Morales said he and his younger brother, Oswaldo, 12, were born in the Roaring Fork Valley and have lived in Basalt all their lives. The family lives on Emma Road.
The Morales family, with the support of an organization called the Association of Youth United in Action, is asking ICE to reconsider Galindo Gonzales’ deportation and give her a chance to legally be part of the nation the family calls home, the Post Independent reported.
Morales said it’s important to him to have his mother at his graduation from Basalt High School on June 2. He still plans on attending Duke, but fulfillment of a dream will be tarnished if his mom is deported.
“She might have been the biggest influence on me,” Morales said. His dad works extremely hard, so he has spent more time with his mother, he said. She instilled a work ethic in him to apply his best effort to whatever he does.
It’s a lesson well-learned. Morales is in the National Honor Society because of his grades and is immersed in various civic endeavors. He is captain and a leading player on the Basalt High School soccer team. He also plays on the baseball and basketball teams. He coaches youth soccer for first- and second-graders. He volunteers as a mentor in the Big Buddy program.
“I kind of want to make a change in my community, leave it better than when I came,” Morales said.
His mom follows the same philosophy, he said. She’s active in their church and is a top supporter of Basalt High School’s athletics and other student activities.
“Many of my classmates said she’s a second mom to them,” Morales said.
Classmates, some school officials and several people from Basalt have written letters to ICE in support of Galindo Gonzales. Morales holds out hope the support influences the process. He tries to convey that to his mom in the occasional five-minute conversations the family is allowed to have with her by telephone.
“With all the support we’ve accumulated in the community, we’re faithful that we can do something about it,” Morales said.
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