An undocumented Anaheim man picked up by immigration officials after appearing in court to seek a restraining order against his daughter’s molester could be deported Tuesday, his family said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Marcos Villanueva while he was out at breakfast with his family on Aug. 8, just two days after he testified in court so his 12-year-old daughter could have a restraining order against her alleged attacker, according to his lawyer and loved ones.
She had accused her 51-year-old uncle of molesting her, attorney Willard Bakeman told KTLA. A judge dismissed that criminal case in July due to lack of evidence, the Orange County Register reported.
The family then sought a restraining order against the uncle, Villanueva’s lawyer said. They believe the uncle tipped off ICE in retaliation.
“I was left without a husband, from one minute to the next, and I didn’t even know who took him,” Villanueva’s wife, Jenie Villalvir, told KTLA.
The 40-year-old father and professional house painter — who’s being held at a facility near Irvine — had no criminal record, according to his lawyer. Now, he’s scheduled to be deported at 5 a.m. on Tuesday to Honduras, where Bakeman said he would likely by kidnapped and killed.
“This is probably the most unjust and unfair case I’ve ever seen,” Bakeman told KTLA. He called Villanueva’s situation an example of ICE targeting victims rather than criminals.
Bakeman said he’s filed an appeal in the case, as well as a motion for an emergency stay of Villanueva’s removal.
The family says Villanueva fled to the U.S. from Honduras 13 years ago under fear for his life after witnessing a friend’s murder.
Villanueva’s daughter Keyli — an older sister of the girl who says she was molested — said facing the reality of his likely removal from the U.S. has been devastating.
“It’s hard to live without him. It’s frustrating,” she said. “What my uncle did to my sister — why is he not in jail? Why are we still looking at his face?”
Bakeman said the restraining order Villanueva’s family had been seeking in his younger daughter’s case was not granted, and that the man who molested Villanueva’s daughter lived two doors away from their home.
According to ICE, an immigration judge previously ordered Villanueva’s deportation in 2005.
Bakeman told the O.C. Register that Villanueva failed to go to court at the time because the notice didn’t indicate a time or location.
He also told the paper the man has a “good” claim for asylum that has not been heard.
ICE, meanwhile, said anyone who violates immigration laws are subjected to be removed from the U.S.
“While ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security, the agency does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” public affairs officer Lauren Mack said in a statement.
Still, Villanueva’s family feels it would be an injustice if he is deported.
“I know he’s not the only person that goes through this, but he deserves another chance,” Keyli said. “He deserves to be back with his family.”
KTLA’s Erika Martin contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to indicate the distinction between the restraining order hearing and the case against Villanueva’s daughter’s uncle.