For six weeks, Eldren violinist Josh Lee waited in custody at the Immigration Customs and Enforcement detention center in Aurora after a recent criminal charge complicated his immigration status. As he collected money for his $20,000 bond, the Denver music community rallied around him, staging fundraisers and benefit concerts for the local musician. Today, after more than a month, Lee is out of detention, but not out of trouble.
As his case moves forward, Lee still faces deportation. He left the ICE facility last week after posting bond, but his residency status is still under question.
ICE officials originally took him into custody in early June after officers discovered a controlled substance in Lee's car during a routine traffic violation the month before. In response to the resulting class-six felony possession charge, Lee accepted a deferred judgment, which ICE employees noticed immediately. Lee entered ICE's Aurora facility the day he took the plea deal.
Here's a Beatles-oriented video created on Lee's behalf.
Lee's immigration status was already in question after his family had applied for permanent residency three times; they were denied each time. Lee moved to the United States from South Korea at age eleven and has not returned to his birth home since. For more information on this history, read our original post on Lee's case.
Moving forward, Lee, his criminal attorney and his immigration attorney are combining their efforts to commute his Arapahoe County felony into a lesser charge in order to negate the attention from ICE. Right now, Lee expects an immigration hearing within the next month and will attend court for his criminal charge on August 24. The entire process could take up to a year, Lee's attorneys have warned him, and while Lee is working toward creating a home in the United States, he fears what might happen.
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"I wish I could say that I'm trying not to think about it, but the reality is, it's here right now in front of me and I have to deal with it," Lee says. "I'd say chances are more than likely that I will probably be deported. Realistically, it's not going to be an easy battle."
On the first night of his release back into the community, Lee ate dinner with his family and then headed immediately to band practice with Eldren. During his stay in detention, Lee earned visits from "more musicians in Denver than even seems possible," he says, all of whom contributed to community efforts to raise funds for his court costs -- including "Free Josh Lee" shirts and the Beatles cover above.
"I'm just going back to everyday life and trying to pay back some of my debts to the community, which I feel like I'm hugely indebted to," Lee says. "A whole bunch of people were waiting for me when I was released, and it was really tremendous, kind of overwhelming. I've been active in the Denver music scene for years, but I never expected a reaction of that extent."
More from our Immigration archive: "Eldren's Josh Lee: Musicians rally around violinist detained by ICE."