1. News

Venezuelan family in Tampa gets one year reprieve from deportation

William Paredes, left, and his wife Jennifer Infante, fourth from left, speak to reporters Tuesday with their attorney Oxalis Garcia, second from right, and Javier Torres, executive director of the Migrants Foundation. Paredes and Infante learned Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has granted their request to delay for one year their deportation to Venezuela. [TONY MARRERO l Times]
Published Mar. 26

TAMPA — Hours before an appointment with a bureaucracy seeking to deport her family to a country in turmoil, Jennifer Infante woke up feeling calm.

For months, Infante and her husband William Paredes and their two young children have faced uncertainty as their legal team made a last ditch effort to postpone their return to Venezuela. Their requests for asylum had been denied, and on Tuesday morning they returned to the Immigrations and Custom Enforcement office to find out if their request for a so-called stay of removal would be granted. They asked for permission to remain in the United States for at least six months.

They got a year.

"I woke up feeling calm because we have faith in God," a smiling Infante said in Spanish after the appointment at the ICE office on Cypress Street. "We were certain it was going to be positive."

The family contends that sending them back to Venezuela while President Nicolás Maduro is still in power would amount to a death sentence.

Paredes, 36, said he was working as a K-9 officer for the city of Maracaibo in 2013 when he was part of a big cocaine bust. Shortly after, he started receiving threatening phone calls from members of a collective, or colectivo. The armed groups emerged during the tenure of President Hugo Chávez and control vast territory across Venezuela, financed in some cases by the drug trade.

After he was threatened at gunpoint, Paredes and Infante, 35, came to Tampa with their son Sebastian on a tourist visa in 2014 and applied for asylum. Their application and subsequent appeals were denied. As their case ran its course, the family made a life in Tampa. Paredes works in construction, Infante is a phlebotomist. The couple has since had a second a child, a daughter named Madison who is a U.S. citizen and now 3. Sebastian is 10.

A stay of removal is a temporary humanitarian benefit ICE may grant to undocumented people whose deportation is pending. ICE spokeswoman Tammy Spicer confirmed Tuesday the agency granted the Paredes-Infante family a yearlong stay.

The specific peril the family faces because of Paredes' job history might have played a role, but the humanitarian and political crises that are roiling Venezuela was probably a bigger factor in the decision, said Oxalis Garcia, lead immigration attorney for the Migrants Foundation, who worked on the family's case with fellow attorney Paul Palacios.

"We believe and we theorize that this is because of the situation that the nation of Venezuela is going through at this moment in time," Garcia said.

A mismanaged state-controlled economy has made food and health care unavailable to many. Dissidents have been jailed and tortured. Maduro is resisting calls to step down and has blocked humanitarian aid. President Donald Trump's administration, the same government that considered deporting the Paredes-Infante family, has slapped sanctions on Maduro's government to pressure him to step down.

Paredes, Infante and Sebastian do not have a path to citizenship under current law other than applying when Madison turns 21, so they expect to return to Venezuela at some point. The family and their supporters hope that in the next year, Maduro will be removed from power and conditions in the country will improve.

Meantime, the family hopes the Trump administration will give Venezuelans temporary protective status. The TPS program provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals unable to safely return to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts or other extraordinary conditions.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is among lawmakers who have signed onto a bill that would grant Venezuelans living in the United States temporary protected status. Oxalis said Rubio was helpful in the Paredes-Infante family's case along with Casa Venezuela Tampa Bay.

"We're very emotional, very happy, very thankful," Paredes said in Spanish as he held Madison in his arms.

The family said they plan to make the most of the reprieve.

"We're going to continue to work, continue to build a future for our children," Infante said.

CENTRO Tampa editor Myriam Warren contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrero. Follow @tmarrerotimes.


  1. Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share for Tech Data's stock in an acquisition worth $5.4 billion. If regulators shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Private equity firms like Apollo create wealth for pension funds, financial institutions and individual investors by buying assets that typically are sold later at a profit.
  2. Some of Tampa Bay's largest companies are being sold or are up for sale. Times files and Bloomin' Brands
    Tech Data is just the latest in a growing list of public companies bought up by out-of-state firms.
  3. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  4. The "#9pmroutine" is a core social media feature for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Now, the agency has a copyright on it. Facebook
    Copyrighting a key part of the agency’s social media presence isn’t meant to limit its reach, the office said, but rather to stop bad actors.
  5. USF student Gabriela Young is the owner of Earth and Ivory, an online jewelry business with items made out of clay.  [Special to the Times | Sarah Foster] SARAH FOSTER  |  Special to the Times | @sarahtheartiste
    Gabriela Young went from selling bracelets to friends to making clay wares for customers with her business, Earth and Ivory.
  6. Chief Veterinarian Mallory Offner examines a female rescue puppy at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    With 250 of the pooches ready for adoption, each potential puppy parent has a 1-in-4 shot at getting picked in today’s drawing.
  7. Eight vehicles were involved in a fiery and fatal crash late Wednesday that left two people dead and shut down northbound Interstate 75 bridging Hillsborough and Pasco counties, authorities said. The driver of the white van pictured above, George Pagan of Tampa, said he saw the semi-trailer truck, left, sliding sideways toward him in his rearview mirror before impact. Pasco Fire Rescue
    The chain-reaction crash that closed the northbound lanes of the interstate near the Pasco/Hillsborough line began when a semi-trailer truck driver didn’t stop for traffic, according to the Florida...
  8. People are lead out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif.  The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles  northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office says a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the school. AP
    At least seven people were injured — one critically — in a shooting at Saugus High School when a gunman opened fire on the Santa Clarita campus early Thursday, authorities said.
  9. Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
  10. Cotee River Elementary student Darrell Jones waves his American flag during the school's Veterans Day program.
    The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar next week.