ICE grants Basalt woman one-year deportation delay

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Galindo Gonzales

BASALT – A Basalt woman who was in custody in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora was released unexpectedly Friday evening, in time to spend Mother’s Day weekend with her family and friends.

Norma Galindo Gonzales was released around 5:30 p.m. and back in Basalt by 11, according to her son, Hector Morales Jr.

“It all seemed sort of unreal for me,” Morales said. He and his younger brother, Oswaldo, waited up until Norma arrived home. They shared hugs and tears.

“We totally welcomed her home,” Morales said. He initially shared the information through a posting on his Facebook page.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition lobbied for the release of Galindo Gonzales, 39. A representative of the organization picked her up at the detention center and shuttled her to the mountains, where they met her husband for the final leg of the journey home.

“She’s home, and she’s spending Mother’s Day with her family, which is where she should have been,” said Niebla, a member of the board of directors of the immigrant-rights coalition. “It was totally unexpected.”

Advocates also worked hard for her release because her son is graduating from Basalt High School on June 2. He earned a prestigious scholarship that will provide him a full ride to Duke University, where Morales has been accepted to study engineering.

Galindo Gonzales’ long-term status wasn’t clear Saturday. ICE released this statement: “Norma Galindo Gonzales was granted a one-year stay of removal yesterday, May 11, 2012, and released from ICE custody later that day.”

Niebla said members of the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition placed numerous calls in recent days to ICE agents and John Longshore, the agency’s field office director in Centennial, seeking Galindo Gonzales’ release. They were never able to speak directly to ICE representatives, but their messages apparently were heard, he said.

Morales agreed. The case also garnered attention because her deportation looked inevitable just as the family was celebrating Hector’s high school graduation and acceptance to a top university.

“I guess that was a compelling story,” Morales said.

Ted Hess, a Glenwood Springs attorney representing Galindo Gonzales, said Friday that he expected a ruling next week by Longshore on the request for a Stay of Removal for Galindo Gonzales.

A deportation order was issued against Galindo Gonzales in 2005 and upheld on appeal in 2008. After living in the U.S. for 14 years, Galindo Gonzales “borrowed” another woman’s birth certificate and attempted to obtain a state ID card at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles office in Glenwood Springs, according to Hess. She was caught and initially charged with a felony. She agreed to a plea bargain with the District Attorney’s Office, Hess said.

Galindo Gonzales pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that is no longer on Colorado’s books, he said, and she was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.

The criminal action brought her to the attention of ICE. The agency investigated her status and a judge ordered her removed from the country in 2005. It was upheld on appeal in 2008.

Galindo Gonzales didn’t return to her native Mexico, and ICE knocked on her door four years later. Hess said he had no idea why ICE investigated her case this year.

The stay-of-removal request Hess filed argued that ICE should have exercised its prosecutorial discretion and not pursued her deportation. Hess said he pressed the points that Galindo Gonzales has been in the U.S. for 21 years, she learned to speak English, and she’s become a vital part of the community.

The Morales boys were born and raised in the Roaring Fork Valley, so they are U.S. citizens. The Aspen Times erroneously reported Friday that Hector Morales Sr. was in the country legally. His brother, who is a U.S. citizen, filed a petition for an immigrant visa for Hector Morales Sr. in 1991, Hess said. He hasn’t received the visa yet.