It was just over a year ago that Camilo Dunoyer, now 18, first drew national attention to his family’s plight with a social media video.
In it he described how, after more than 15 years of carefully following all the right rules to remain in the U.S., his family could soon end up deported back to the country they fled from fear for their lives.
In the months since, he and his brother, Pablo, 21, had grown somewhat used to being in the spotlight, with their family’s story being featured in a new Netflix documentary series, Living Undocumented.
The show follows the harrowing accounts of eight undocumented families as they face potential deportation under the Trump administration’s hardline crackdown.
However, since filming the series, Camilo and Pablo said they have been forced to go into hiding out of fears of being targeted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Their father was deported from the U.S., despite their efforts to prevent his removal.
“I don’t feel safe anywhere,” Camilo said in a phone interview.”I barely leave the house I’m in.”
Both he and his brother joined the call from separate undisclosed locations, where they have been living apart in hiding out of fear of being targeted by ICE.
The two brothers made the decision to go into hiding after their father, Roberto, lost his battle to remain in the U.S. “They caught him in the parking lot of his work and it was very unexpected. It was scary,” Camilo said.
After spending a harrowing week in ICE detention, Roberto was deported back to Colombia, the country his family had fled 17 years ago, when Camilo was just an infant.
In Netflix’s Living Undocumented series, the Dunoyer family shared the story of how they fled to the U.S. from Colombia in 2002 after Roberto, then a government official, was targeted by narco-guerillas that repeatedly threatened their lives.
Their family had initially come to the U.S. on a visa and later applied for asylum when that visa expired in 2005. However, according to the two brothers, a judge denied their asylum bid in 2008, saying they did not qualify because their case wasn’t “100% political.”
Their pleas for protection, however, were so powerful that they drove Republican Representative Duncan Hunter to introduce private legislation to allow the family to stay in the U.S. As long as the bill was tied up in the legislative process, the family would be allowed to remain in the country.
That all changed under the Trump administration, however, with President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration crackdown ending most protections for asylum seekers facing deportation, including the Dunoyer family.
As a result of the Trump administration’s hardline policies, Camilo and Pablo have not only been separated from their father, but they have also been forced to give up the futures they have dedicated years toward.
Pablo had been set to attend San Diego State University, where he had been accepted to study construction engineering, while Camilo had also set his sights on a future as a civil engineer.
“For Pablo and I, school is probably the most important thing in our daily lives,” Camilo said. “It’s been the one thing that we’ve focused on for the past 18 years of our lives in this country, so having that taken away from us has been a big shift in our lives and it’s kind of left us not knowing how to go on with life.”
Both brothers have sought to continue their education as much as possible, with Pablo attending community college, while Camilo has taken online courses. However, with their futures in the U.S. in limbo, neither one is confident that their lives will go the way they had always planned.
“Right now, I just feel the absence of a place where I can feel safe,” Pablo said.
He added: “I don’t think we ever imagined that we would get to the point where we would be in fear of deportation, just because for so long, we were living safe and perfectly fine.”
“We never thought we would be the ones that would be targeted,” he said. “We always believed the words of the president himself, when he said he would be targeting criminals.”
Now, with thousands of undocumented families having been caught up in the Trump administration’s widespread immigration crackdown, Camilo and Pablo fear it would be a matter of days before they would be deported if caught by ICE.
Despite having faced death threats in Colombia as children, the two brothers say they don’t know what they are more afraid of: being forced to return to the country where their lives were at risk or being detained in one of ICE’s notorious detention centers.
“We’re just trying to stay as low under the radar as possible, so the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, because if we do get detained by ICE forcibly then we’d have to go through what my father unfortunately had to go through and go to a detention center,” Camilo said.
“My father was there for only a week, but he met people there for six to eight months, who were begging to leave the terrible conditions, with mylar blankets, 100 people living in the same room; that’s what we’re mainly trying to avoid,” the 18-year-old said. “I couldn’t imagine us going through what my dad explained to be a ‘living hell’.”
“He literally made it seem like it was a living hell. It was just not proper conditions for a human being. It was just terrible,” Camilo said. “I couldn’t imagine being there longer for a week.”
The 18-year-old said that he and his brother have spoken with their father regularly since his deportation and that they believe he is safe—for now. However, they fear for both his safety, as well as their mother’s if she were to be arrested and deported by ICE.
“I couldn’t imagine my mom going through that,” Camilo said of his mother. “I personally don’t believe she would be able to handle that situation.”
“Ultimately,” Pablo said, “I do think what Trump wants is to just get rid of everyone [who is undocumented.]”
“I understand that there are people who are very bad people and who have harmed others, but I guess that I want people to understand is that the undocumented immigrant population in this country is very large, and, you know, there are some bad people, but there are millions and millions of good people, millions,” the 21-year-old said.
“You don’t hear about them because they do live in fear. They don’t want to bring any sort of attention [to themselves] because for an undocumented person to speak out is to put everything on the line,” he said. “I hope they can see them as more like us, just regular hardworking people.”