Methow Valley residents rally behind man picked up by ICE

He was brought to the U.S. at age 12. People in this small community are fighting to bring him home.

  • By Wire Service
  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 1:30am
  • Northwest
Francisco Morales

Francisco Morales

By Marcy Stamper / Methow Valley News

The emotional turmoil of the immigration issue engulfed the Methow Valley in North Central Washington after a longtime resident was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as he was driving his daughter to preschool in Winthrop earlier this month.

Francisco “Frank” Morales was reportedly pulled over to the side of the road on Feb. 5, according to the “Bring Francisco Home” Facebook page set up by his friends and supporters. He was transferred to the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma within two days.

After Morales was stopped that day, he was permitted to call his wife, Brenda Lopez, so she could pick up their daughter, according to Blue Bradley, a family friend who’s helping coordinate support. Morales had already dropped off his son at Methow Valley Elementary School.

Morales, who’s in his early 30s, has lived in the Methow Valley for a dozen years and is well known throughout the area. News of his detention ricocheted around town and through social media within hours of his apprehension.

A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for legal assistance and to help the family make up for the loss of Morales’ income raised $42,630 in under 24 hours, more than twice the goal. There were 544 contributions by the time his supporters put the campaign on hold.

The Barnyard Cinema, a Winthrop movie house, raised another $1,168.50 through an impromptu fundraiser, donating all ticket sales from a noon showing of a surprise movie to the Bring Francisco Home campaign.

“I felt sick to my stomach this morning when I got the news,” Genevieve Cole, co-owner of the Barnyard Cinema, said. “He’s a really involved member of the community. I’m doing this as much to bring people together and to bond as a community.”

Over last weekend, 224 people sent letters of support for Morales, attesting to his character and his social and economic contributions to the community. Those letters have been sent to Congressional representatives Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Dan Newhouse and Gov. Jay Inslee, Bradley said.

Letters of support also came from staff and administrators at Methow Valley Elementary and Little Star Montessori schools, Morales’ and Lopez’ employers, the family’s landlord and other members of the community.

Advocates for Morales hope the outpouring of support will spur elected officials to request a hearing for Morales in the coming week.

The family doesn’t know if Morales will be released on bond or will be able to face a judge, Lopez said. Their lawyer is fighting hard for him to face a judge so he can present all the letters of support from the community, she said.

Long-time resident of Okanogan County

Morales was brought to the United States from Mexico by his mother when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Brewster High School and has lived in Okanogan County his entire life as a teen and adult. His wife and two children are U.S. citizens, and his mother recently became a citizen, according to the Facebook page.

The family was told that because of Morales’ applications for a visa and a “previous run-in” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he was on their radar, Lopez said.

People contributing to the GoFundMe campaign were appalled that the family had been torn apart by what one called a “cruel policy.”

“I cannot imagine a world where a father is separated from his wife, children and mother for just being a decent hard working man,” said one. “This policy is wrong on so many levels! And its finally hit our home and valley families!” said another. “I am a daughter of an immigrant. I believe in human rights,” wrote another contributor.

At the cinema fundraiser, Cole said she felt a personal link to Morales’ situation. Her family moved from Toronto to Denver decades ago when she was 11, when she obtained her green card.

Danbert Nobacon, a local musician who immigrated from Britain and became a naturalized citizen seven years ago, was at the cinema to perform his song “Building A Wall (Not Now, Not Ever)” before the screening of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Nobacon and Cole both described anxiety as green-card holders. Nobacon said he’d been openly critical in his music and writing of the British and U.S. governments and worried that his comments could jeopardize his citizenship application. “I was really nervous for two days — me real name, me stage name, me antics. I’d been arrested at a street protest in England,” he said.

But at his citizenship interview in Spokane, the main question was about his finances, Nobacon said. “I jumped through hoops, but I’m a white, English person,” he said.

Coordinating help

Morales’ friends and family have been in touch with organizations that assist immigrants, including the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. They’re hoping to arrange a meeting between Morales and an advocate from NWIRP at the immigration detention center in Tacoma, Bradley said.

As of Feb. 11, Lopez had hired a lawyer and was headed for Tacoma to see her husband. She was just notified that she has an interview later this month regarding an application for a “petition for alien relative” that they sent in last year, she said.

“We can breathe now and are being told he is not in danger of deportation in the next few days. Now we wait for a hearing!” Morales’ supporters said in a posting this week on Facebook.

A connection to home

Francisco Morales got a welcome connection with home over the weekend, when Kent and Dawn Woodruff of Twisp went to the immigration detention center in Tacoma to see him. “Just having a friendly face is something we can all appreciate. I just wanted to give him some warm encouragement,” Kent said. They’ve been friends for a decade, he said.

Morales is in an area for low-risk detainees, with bunk beds separated by partitions. He said he’s been sleeping OK and had bacon and eggs for breakfast, Woodruff said.

When Morales was first transferred to the Tacoma detention facility, he was pretty discouraged, Woodruff said. “But when he learned of all the support and outpouring in the valley, it filled his chest with hope. It completely surprised him how many people knew him and cared about him,” Woodruff said.

They didn’t talk about the details of Morales’ case. “We just wanted to provide positive support,” Woodruff said. Instead, they reminisced about the last time they saw each other, at a preschool holiday gathering when Woodruff was playing Santa and had Morales’ daughter on his lap, Woodruff said.

Immigration laws

Immigration law “specifies that aliens unlawfully present in the United States will be arrested and may be detained pending immigration removal proceedings,” according to a public affairs officer with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In some cases, detention is mandatory by law. In others, an individual may be released if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or an immigration judge determines that the person will not pose a danger to the community or a risk of flight, she said.

Conditions of release can include the payment of an immigration bond and/or participation in an Alternative to Detention Program, which uses an electronic-monitoring device and case management to encourage compliance, the public affairs officer said by email.

Decisions concerning bond amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis. ICE considers known criminal record, history of immigration arrests and violations, current immigration status, manner of entry into the U.S., and ties to the community and any support network. ICE prioritizes detention for serious criminal offenders and those who pose a threat to public safety, the officer said.

Anyone removed by ICE is afforded due process in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations. Some are removed quickly, while others go through lengthier proceedings, the officer said.

This story originally appeared in The Methow Valley News.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Washington’s low-income tax credit available for first time

Up to $1,200 is now available for thousands of low-income working Washington residents, thanks to a 2008 law that has finally been funded.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
Washington state Gov. Inslee tests positive for COVID-19

“Once again I am very appreciative to be vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in the statement.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Lobbyist barred from WA Capitol after ruling he stalked representative

State Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, obtained a domestic violence protective order against longtime lobbyist Cody Arledge.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Democrats in Washington state choose Conrad as new leader

The Washington State Democratic Party has chosen Shasti Conrad, the former leader of King County Democrats, as its new chair.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Port of Coupeville to make offer on Oak Harbor airport

The Port of Coupeville continues to pursue ownership of the A.J. Eisenberg Airport near Oak Harbor.

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 777 airplane at the company's manufacturing facility in Everett, Wash., north of Seattle. Beginning in 2024, some 737 planes will be built in Everett, the company announced to workers on Monday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
With 747 out, Boeing to open new 737 Max line at Everett’s Paine Field

Since the last 747 rolled out of the factory, speculation has been rife that Boeing might move some 737 Max production to Everett.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle could broaden anti-discrimination law to add caste

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants to add caste to the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
US board says Boeing Max likely hit a bird before 2019 crash

U.S. accident investigators disagree with Ethiopian authorities over the cause of a 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash.

CORRECTS DAY TO TUESDAY IN SECOND REFERENCE - This surveillance video image released by the Yakima Police Department shows a suspect sought in a shooting at a convenience store in Yakima, Wash., early on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. At least three people were killed in a random shooting Tuesday, in Yakima, and police are still searching for the suspect. (Yakima Police Department via AP).
Suspect in Yakima triple-killing shot, killed self

A 21-year-old man wanted in the random killing of three people in Yakima early Tuesday shot and killed himself.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
WA Supreme Court clears way for Albertsons’ $4 billion dividend

The case was the final obstacle to the dividend after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected similar efforts.

Beard photo in Whidbey Island exhibit hits a snarl

A photography show has come under scrutiny due to an image of a man dressed as a female pirate.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Former VA-115 member Jack Keegan speaks at a presentation on base commemorating the last crew from NAS Whidbey Island shot down during the Vietnam War.
Whidbey Island air base honors crew lost in Vietnam War

NAS Whidbey Island will host several upcoming events commemorating the end of the Vietnam War.