Family fears the worst after asylum rejection

Edgar Roblero came to the U.S. 20 years ago, seeking asylum because of the violence rocking his native Guatemala.

January 24, 2011 7:11:47 PM PST
Edgar Roblero came to the U.S. 20 years ago, seeking asylum because of the violence rocking his native Guatemala. He filed for asylum, a process that has stretched out all these years. In the interim, he was issued a work permit and raised a family in the Bay Area. However, his application for asylum was eventually turned down and appeals failed. He's set to return voluntarily to Guatemala next Tuesday.

His two daughters are American born, but they will end up moving with their father. Their mother was killed a year ago in Guatemala when she returned to prepare for their return and was held up by gangs at gunpoint. She suffered a heart attack and died. The girls, who stayed behind in San Mateo, are in therapy. Friends and neighbors are now mounting a last-ditch effort to have Roblero's deportation delayed on humanitarian grounds.

"Two therapists have written reports saying it would be devastating, tremendously dangerous, to have them taken away from the ongoing therapy they've been involved in in the past year," said the Roblero's San Francisco immigration attorney, Marc Van Der Hout.

Friends and neighbors have started writing to elected officials, seeking support for a delay. They say Roblero is a doting father, a volunteer at his daughters' school and a skilled craftsman.

"When they lost their mother, they cried their eyes out, and they're scared to death to go back to the same community in Guatemala where Mommy was killed," family friend Casey Clow said.

The staff at Rep. Jackie Speier's Office in the Peninsula, the Congressional distict where Roblero lives, said it could not comment because of privacy. Roblero wears an ankle bracelet to track his movements, now that he is scheduled for deportation. He has been selling off his household goods. He is resigned to leaving the U.S. However, he is worried that his daughters could become targets for kidnappers after what happened to their mother.

The U.S. Dept. of State warns of gang activity, including kidnapping and armed hold-up's, in its online country report on Guatemala. The decision is in the hands of Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, VA.

"This is a huge humanitarian problem that has to be addressed," Clow said.