While on a routine visit with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, HIV-positive Venezuelan Ricardo Querales was told that he would need to return at the end of February with his passport and a plane ticket. As first reported in the Miami Herald, Querales was being deported back to Venezuela, even though many HIV-positive people in Venezuela can’t get their HIV meds.
“You are sending me to my death!” Querales, 43, said to the immigration official, the Herald reported. “This is anti human rights. In Venezuela, there is no medicine and every day someone with AIDS disappears.”
Due to the ongoing economic and social crisis in Venezuela, many medications are in short supply. That means that Querales should be able to apply for a temporary deferral of deportation.
“There is a very serious crisis in Venezuela, and if he has HIV and there are no drugs there, he should ask that they not take him out of the country for humanitarian reasons,” Marcial De Sautu, an immigration lawyer, told the Herald.
Querales has been in the United States for about 15 years. He fled Venezuela to escape persecution and insecurity. Querales was once charged with controlled substance possession because he had a small bag of methamphetamine in his apartment. Querales used drugs shortly after his HIV-positive diagnosis to deal with depression and loneliness. In 2009, he was convicted and served 30 days in jail. He was arrested a second time when ICE raided a house he was visiting. He was detained for six months.
“I am a reformed citizen, a decent worker who made mistakes in the past and I am no longer on drugs,” Querales, who has not used drugs for five years, said. “They told me they would not deport me because there are no medicines for my treatment in Venezuela.”
Querales told the Herald that his plan is to “stay here” and to “fight to the end.”
In September, INTO reported on the Venezuelan HIV medicine crisis. At the time, Jhonatan Rodriguez, president of the advocacy organization StopVIH, told INTO that at least six medications, including Atripla, were not getting to those who need it.