The fate of a Bayfield resident who owns two businesses is uncertain after Immigration and Customs Enforcement suddenly detained him when he showed up to a regularly scheduled appointment with ICE in early February.
Edin Mejia Ramos, a husband and father of three, has been sitting in an immigration detention cell in Aurora since Feb. 5, awaiting deportation to Honduras, his home country he fled 15 years ago because of violence and political unrest.
Meanwhile, his wife, Thalia, and three children, ages 6, 8 and 10, are wondering how the family will stay together and how Thalia will run the two Bayfield-based businesses the couple has had since 2006.
Monica Newcomer Miller, Ramos' attorney, said there is little hope that Ramos will be able to stay in the United States, even though he has worked for several years to obtain legal status. She said Ramos is a victim of a surge of immigration arrests under the Trump administration.
"Under the Obama administration, ICE had priorities of who to target," she said. "If someone was here without criminal history and had family ties here, they were not a priority. With the Trump administration, that changed. There are no longer levels of priorities."
Since before he took office, President Donald Trump said illegal immigration would be his priority, and promised to increase deportations of "bad hombres," who he said are bringing drugs and crime across the border.
But more than 90 percent of removal proceedings initiated in the first two months of the Trump Administration were against people who committed no crimes, according to data gathered by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. According to Miller, Ramos has no criminal convictions.
The number of "interior" deportations of people who already live in the United States - not those who were detained at a border - increased 37 percent from Jan. 20 to Sept. 30, 2017, the first nine months Trump was in office, according to 2017 ICE report.
ICE's acting director, Thomas Homan, reinforced the administration's stance on immigration in December, when he told reporters: "There's no population that's off the table. If you're in the country illegally, we're looking for you."
Ramos has been living undocumented in the U.S. since 2003 when he left Honduras because of widespread corruption and crime. He settled in Bayfield, where he met Thalia in 2006. The couple married a year later and had three children.
In 2006, they opened a medical facility cleaning business, Sun Cleaning. In 2015, they started Sun Linen Services, a commercial laundry business. Between the two businesses, the Ramoses employ 13 people.
Thalia said it has been an ongoing struggle for her husband to obtain lawful permanent residence, which started after they were married in 2007.
"Even though a person might be here illegally and marry a U.S. citizen doesn't mean they can automatically adjust their status," she said. "It depends on a lot of factors."
After their marriage, Edin applied for an adjustment of status, which required him to return to Honduras for an interview at the American consulate, but his application was denied.
Edin returned to the United States rather than move his family to Honduras, because it is unsafe.
"People might disagree with his choice to come here illegally, but that was his only option at the time," Thalia Ramos said. "He's always done his best to put the country first. He loves the United States and believes this is a really great country."
Thalia said Edin had been detained by ICE once before, in 2012, but he was later granted a stay of removal, or a temporary postponement. Edin successfully renewed his stay of removal every year, as required.
"We felt pretty confident with having our businesses and Edin not having a criminal record, but this current administration doesn't care about anything but their deportation numbers," she said.
Miller, Edin's attorney, said ICE denied his stay of removal in November 2017, which she believes was because of a shift in immigration policies under the Trump administration. She said Edin was given a grace period of an undetermined amount of time to get his affairs in order before being deported.
"I was emailing with the immigration officer and there was no official date for deportation," she said. "They said he had another check-in on Feb. 5, and they detained him. It feels very arbitrary."
A call to ICE requesting comment was not immediately returned Monday.
Thalia said her husband was arrested in Durango during a routine check-in with ICE. He was taken to the detention facility in Aurora. Neither he or his attorney know when he will be deported to Honduras.
Miller said the Ramos family has exhausted their legal options, and there is little more they can do than wait.
"There are a lot of people who are good, upstanding citizens who face deportation," she said. "He has never tried to hide from immigration or be sneaky about it, but because of this administration's stance on immigration, we couldn't get that renewal. ICE has made it clear he will be detained until he is removed, but we don't have a sense of how much longer that will be."
Under the deportation order, Edin will have to stay out of the United States for 10 years before he can apply for a waiver to return, Miller said.
For Thalia, that means making the difficult decision of remaining in the United States with a fractured family, or leaving her home to join Edin in Honduras.
"It puts us in a pretty tough position, because Honduras is not a safe country," she said. "My children understand Spanish, but they do not speak it very well, so it makes us easy targets for violence. But staying here and trying to raise my children without a father and running two businesses is also difficult."