STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) — A single father from Staten Island and his 6-year-old daughter can finally hug again after being separated for months when the dad was detained by immigration officials last year, according to Make the Road New York.
Julio Patricio Gomez was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Oct. 14 and released from a detention center in Pennsylvania Wednesday night, according to Make the Road New York, a nonprofit organization that works with immigrants.
An ICE spokesperson told PIX11 News that Gomez has been placed in an alternative detention program while he awaits the outcome of his case but did not elaborate on the specifics.
Gomez was reunited with his little girl, Aliya, who was waiting for him with balloons and tears in her eyes. The dad has been taking care of the child since she was a baby.
“I am overjoyed to finally be free and reunited with my daughter,” Gomez said in a press release issued by Make the Road New York. “I know my daughter suffered a lot while I was detained. Now that I am home with her, it feels like a dream. I cannot stop hugging her.”
“When he was gone I was so sad because I wanted him to be with me. Now he is free, and I can finally hug him again,” the daughter said.
In August 2020, Gomez was convicted of third-degree assault in a Brooklyn court, according to the ICE spokesperson. ICE officers arrested Gomez in October after finding his address when he applied for a New York Driver’s License, according to the nonprofit.
In 2010, an immigration judge issued a deportation order but it was stopped by an emergency order, according to the ICE spokesperson and Make the Road.
The organization and the community rallied behind the family, starting an online petition which collected nearly 2,000 signatures. Gomez works as a construction worker and has lived on Staten Island for more than a decade.
“We are thrilled to have Patricio released and back home in Staten Island with his family. We will continue to work with him to reopen his case and secure immigration relief so that he can stay with his daughter where he belongs and his family never has to face this sort of trauma again,” Paige Austin, supervising litigation attorney at Make the Road New York, said.
For now, the happy dad and daughter can finally open their Christmas presents.
“I’m happy to be back home, where I belong,” Gomez said.