North Brunswick family fails to prevent deportation of father back to Honduras

Posted: Updated:

A North Brunswick family has failed to keep their father from being deported to Honduras.

Melvin Herrera is a father to three children – two of whom were born in the United States. He was living in the United States illegally, but had been appealing to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stay with his family. But he was deported Wednesday morning without the family’s knowledge.

“Very, very sad,” says Herrera’s wife, Geyde Zapata.

Zapata says that she does not know what she will do now that Herrera is gone. Two of their children have autism. She says that she does not know if she will stay in the U.S. or move the family to Honduras. Her children don’t know when they will see their father again.

“I love him so much and I love my whole family,” says son William. “I’m going to miss him.”

The family says that they thought Herrera was at an ICE detention center in Elizabeth. But Zapata says that at 7 a.m. Wednesday, she received a call from him saying that he was in Louisiana and was being deported.

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Pastor Seth Kaper Dale has been working with a family to secure Herrera’s release. A prayer vigil was held at the Reformed Church of Highland Park Wednesday afternoon for the family.

“We know that what is current is wrong,” Kaper Dale says.

Herrera was taken into ICE custody in November. He was driving a work vehicle and was pulled over in Plainfield in a traffic stop. The van did not have the proper registration. But instead of simply receiving a traffic ticket, Herrera was arrested and turned over to immigration officials.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal previously issued a directive making New Jersey a sanctuary state. Under the Immigration Trust Directive, police officers are not allowed to call ICE if the person they have encountered does not have a criminal record.

Herrera did not have a criminal record, so his family wants to know if Plainfield police officers broke the AG’s directive.

News 12 New Jersey reached out to ICE for comment, but was told that it could not comment on Herrera’s status.

"We believed that the factors of having two U.S. citizen autistic children with specific needs ought to have been grounds for some reasonable sensible decision to be made in this case,” says Kaper Dale.

ICE was said to consider Herrera’s case, but in the end, he was denied.

Herrera was providing the sole income for the family. Friends say the family will now struggle financially while figuring out their next move.

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