The following update is via immigration lawyer Carol Anne Mauer Donohoe:
Three weeks ago, ICE tricked a Vermont mother and her 15-year-old daughter to come to their office to “pick up their green cards.” They have pending applications for permanent residence based on mother’s marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Upon arrival, instead of getting their green cards, they are arrested and placed in a car (mother and 15-year-old daughter) with several male ICE officers.
They are taken by the male officers on an 8-hour drive.
They are deposited at Berks where they are detained.
They speak English. They are white. They have lived here over 5 years.
At Berks, the (female) deportation officer lies to the mother, saying her green card application was denied. Saying she had no choice but to sign their deportation papers.
Yesterday mother and daughter got notice that their removal would take place that evening.
Their private attorney had contacted Bridget. She drove to Philadelphia yesterday morning to file the application for stay of removal prior to their deportation.
The stay should be a no-brainer. They are not an enforcement priority. They have pending green card applications.
We/they/all wait. And wait.
At first, this mother and the Central American mothers at Berks were at odds. They were different. They spoke different languages. It appeared that this mother was getting preferential treatment. Now the other mothers understand: they are all mothers. They are one and the same.
Mother and daughter are told by county staff to start packing their bags. Daughter begins to cry inconsolably. She wants to go back to playing soccer. She wants to start her sophomore year.
The large, gruff, male deportation officer tells them to get moving.
Mother says, “You have lied to me before, why should I believe you now?”
The County Staff kicks the legal advocate out of the building, the only person on the mother’s side. She is forced to wait in the car.
Bridget is told there will be a decision on the stay application “before the plane takes off.” This is not encouraging. The stay should take minutes to grant.
Mother and daughter are placed in the van. They are driven to JFK.
It is looking hopeless. Even though this mother and daughter have every reason to be granted a stay, there is no answer from ICE. They have been lied to, more than once. This is what injustice looks like. Smells like. Tastes like.
We reach out to anyone and everyone who could help.
The mother’s U.S. citizen husband is livid. He tells his wife “they are playing psychological games.” He is right.
The daughter’s biological father in the UK says do not deport my daughter. (What kind of country does that?)
At night-time, we get the news: stay denied. Denied. Denied. Denied. We are told, under all evidence we have supplied to the contrary, that this mother and daughter are somehow an “enforcement priority.”
We drink. Heavily. Nothing will ever make sense in this system.
We come home late. We wake up early. We are devastated.
In the morning, we get an email from a Berks mom. Miraculously, the mother and daughter have been returned!! We don’t understand. We are elated but don’t understand. The stay was denied.
Mother reports that they were put on the plane. There were technical difficulties. The door wouldn’t close properly. They sat on the plane for 2 hours. The flight was canceled.
At 2:00 a.m. they were put back in the car with the male ICE officers and driven back to Berks. There aren’t many flights taking off for their country in Central Asia. They nearly get in an accident on the way home because the driver is tired.
At Berks, the mother immediately writes to the deportation officer. “I will not eat a bite of food until my daughter and I are released.”
She is told by the lying deportation officer that her actions will “depress” her daughter. That she is being selfish.
The ICE psychologist asks to speak with her. Maybe he’s going to counsel her? Maybe he’s going to help her talk through her traumatic ordeal and provide some much needed support.
The psychologist tells her she will traumatize her child by refusing to eat. The mother says “YOU traumatized my child by putting her here.”
The psychologist says, “If you don’t eat, we will put you in isolation.” He shows her the isolation room. The mother says: “Okay.” (She is unshaken.)
The psychologist says, “We will put an I.V. in you.” The mother says: “Okay.”
The psychologist says, “We will put your daughter in foster care.” The mother says: “Foster care will be better than prison and you can’t put her there anyway, you liar, because she has a father.”
The psychologist has run out of threats.
The mother gets a call from the ICE Field Office Director, the very same one who denied her stay and said she and her daughter were enforcement priorities. He says due to the plane malfunction and their subsequent return to Berks he’s taken some time to “reconsider” the denial of the stay.
He says the stay will be granted. Granted. Granted. If not for the malfunction, they would have been on that plane, flying thousands of miles away from her husband, her daughter’s stepfather, her daughter’s school, their home. They were an enforcement priority until they weren’t.
Mother and daughter are on their way back to Vermont, in a car driven by her U.S. citizen husband, her daughter’s U.S. citizen stepfather. They will not forget their 3 weeks of hell.
Meanwhile, the remaining mothers look at the calendar. At the end of this month, several will have been detained a year. A 2-year-old boy will have spent half his life in prison.
Tell me why.
Matthew Kolken is an immigration lawyer and the managing partner of Kolken & Kolken, located in Buffalo, New York. His legal opinions and analysis are regularly solicited by various news sources, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, Forbes Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. You can follow him @.