MIAMI - As he entered a North Miami immigration office Monday morning for his regular check-in, Ricardo Querales considered the possibility he might be detained and deported.
Querales is HIV positive. The medication that is keeping him alive would be impossible to find in his native Venezuela.
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"I tell them, 'you send me to die; you really send me to die,'" Querales said. "I have friends that die every day because they don't have medication."
Querales was granted political asylum on the basis of political persecution in 2004. After a drug-related arrest, immigration officials revoked his asylum and ordered his deportation in 2011. He is scheduled to report for voluntary deportation, with an airline ticket in hand, Feb. 22.
"I don’t deal in drugs; I’m sober for five years, building my new life and I pay taxes," Querales said. "I help other people."
Querales said his troubles began when law enforcement found drugs in a house where he and others were staying. He said the drugs were not his. But he pleaded guilty and in return, the court withheld adjudication, writing Querales was "not likely to engage in criminal conduct" and the court didn't "require that he suffers penalties."
His case got attention after El Nuevo Herald first reported his story Feb. 2 and The Miami Herald translated the story and published it Feb. 3. With the help of an attorney, Querales filed a plea to suspend the deportation order on a humanitarian basis.
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