Marco Coello was 18 when he was arrested in Caracas Venezuela at a protest against the regime of Nicolás Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chavez.
Venezuelan police kicked and beat Marco with a golf club, fire extinguisher and tortured him with electric shocks.
After three months, he was released on bail and fled to the United States, where he sought political asylum.
When his asylum interview came up this past April, his lawyer Elizabeth Blandon, an immigration and asylum expert, was optimistic.
Coello’s case of abuse at the hands of the Venezuelan police was so bad that the U.S. State Department included him in their own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015.
“I had this very naïve idea that we were going to walk in there and the officer was going to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’” said Blandon.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, Marco Coello, now 22, was arrested and is now a candidate for deportation.
Why? Because last fall, Coello was arrested for marijuana possession.
However, by the time Coello went to court two months later, the weed charge had been reduced to trespassing, another misdemeanor.
When Coello was arrested in late April by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Miami while awaiting a routine hearing on his asylum request, Senator Marco Rubio asked the White House to intervene. Coello was released the next day.
But even after his release, immigration officials still insist that they plan to deport Marco on the basis that a misdemeanor conviction violated the terms of his stay in the United States.
Coello’s attorneys insist that he was only once cited for sleeping inside a car in a parking lot without paying the fees, and that no marijuana was involved.
“What I’ve got officially is that he has a conviction only for trespassing,” attorney Blandon said, per the Miami Herald. “We don’t know why that report [of the marijuana charge] exists. We don’t know if it’s some kind of computer glitch.”
Coello’s case has attracted extensive media coverage in both Miami and Caracas and, thankfully, the intervention of Florida Senator Rubio, but potential deportation still hovers over him.
“It’s very unusual—almost unprecedented—that ICE would arrest an asylum applicant… waiting for their asylum interview,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School, according to the New York Times.
Marco Coello’s case has made it painfully clear to what inhumane and cruel lengths the Trump government will go to crack down on immigration.
They are going after people who have committed no crimes in this country and whose lives are at stake if they return to their homeland.