Expecting New Paltz father facing deportation over 2004 misdemeanor

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Jim Hoffer investigates.

A visa holder who lives in New Paltz is detained and set to be deported over a misdemeanor drug charge from more than decade ago.

Now, his pregnant wife is demanding answers.

Joel and Jessica Guerrero are newlyweds who are expecting a baby, and they had much to look forward to before last week. That's when Joel did his six-month check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York. He was detained, told to give his wife his wedding ring and say goodbye.

"We just held each other as long as we could until the ICE officer basically had to rip me away from him," Jessica Guerrero said.

Joel Guerrero is a construction worker who has a green card that gives him legal residency in the U.S. He is now being detained at the Hudson County Jail, with an order to deport him to Dominican Republic because of a 2004 marijuana conviction and a 2011 missed court date.

"I think that the word is unfair, that's not strong enough," Jessica Guerrero said. "As a US-born citizen. I am disgusted. We both work. He works so hard. We're married. We're expecting a child."

A report by Human Rights Watch shows that even before President Donald Trump's illegal immigration crackdown, thousands of non-citizens with similar legal status as Guerrero were deported for marijuana possession. During President Obama's first term, more than 34,000 legal immigrants were deported because of a marijuana conviction.

"Most of us came from somewhere," Jessica Guerrero said. "And none of us have perfect pasts."

Jessica Guerrero said she has written to every senator and representative, and last week, the New Paltz Town Council sent a letter to the Justice Department. Officials argued the punishment should fit the crime, and that one misdemeanor and a missed court date should not tear apart a family.

"This can't happen in America," Jessica Guerrero said. "This can't."

Eyewitness News reached out numerous times to ICE for a response to this case. We have not heard back.

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