BURLINGTON (CBS) – Robelio Gonzalez walked out of ICE headquarters in Burlington a free man for now surrounded by family and supporters afraid he was about to be deported to his native Guatemala. “I want to thank you all for everything,” said Gonzalez.
He caught the attention of ICE in recent weeks when his attorneys say Gonzalez, an undocumented immigrant, complained about unsanitary and dangerous conditions at his Lynn apartment building, and his landlord threatened to have him deported. “I’m not here as a criminal, I’m here as a hard working person who works day to day to support my family,” said Gonzalez before heading into the building for his check-in.
Within days ICE was at his doorstep, but when agents tried to take him into custody local activists surrounded their vehicle eventually winning Gonzalez’ release pending the hearing today. “I’m sure they’re not happy with people surrounding their car,” said attorney Susan Church. “But ICE looked beyond that, what it meant to the community, what it meant to future victims of crime and did the right thing.”
Helping his case, the Attorney General’s office is now involved saying it’s illegal for landlords to threaten deportation, and to avoid the courts to have someone evicted. The Attorney General has also applied for a visa for Gonzalez to remain in the United States because he is central to their investigation and the victim of a crime.
“It is important for our community to be able to speak out when they see something wrong,” said Isaac Hodes of Lynn United for Change.
Gonzalez said there’s a lot of people going through the same thing right now and he’ll continue to speak out. He’s been outfitted with a GPS monitoring bracelet and will face another ICE hearing next April. But he now has some time on his side to continue his fight to remain here.