By John Foley, Esq.
It was difficult to understand what the daughter on the other end of the phone was saying through her sobs. “Pleeeeeeze” she cried repeatedly “please, please, please don’t let them deport my mother. It was all my fault. She didn’t do anything. She was only there because of me. Please, please, pleeeeeze promise me you won’t let them deport her.”
I waited for a break in her cries and between sobs told her I would do whatever I could but “in immigration law there are no guarantees. Sorry but it’s as simple as that.”
The daughter was in jail. She knew she was going to be deported. She had a drug problem that brought her to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—more commonly known as ICE. That same drug problem convinced her to give up custody of her only child, a U.S. citizen to her mother.
The mother’s world came crashing down after she stood by her daughter as the daughter was arraigned on the drug charges. As they were leaving the Court parking lot, their car was blocked by two ICE vehicles and they were swarmed by ICE agents. Both mother and daughter were taken into custody.
The daughter went to a county jail where she was placed in solitary confinement.
The mother, who has lived under the radar outside of Boston for the past twenty years had a meeting with ICE.
ICE did an FBI fingerprint check and other than driving without a license and a minor domestic matter, the mother has no criminal history.
She has a 15-year old son who is a U.S. citizen and a Probate Court order naming her the Guardian of her 10-year old grand-daughter. The Court order prevents her from taking the 10-year old outside Massachusetts much less the United States.
According to ICE she last entered the U.S. on a flight in 2006 and has been here illegally since then. When asked what she should do with the two U.S. citizen children in her care, one ICE agent shrugged his shoulders in an “I don’t know or care” kind of way and another simply said “not my problem.”
Copies of the U.S. birth certificates and Social Security cards for the children were provided, with records detailing medical issues for both children and the Court order preventing relocation of the 10-year old. After a somewhat tense exchange the ICE officer said “just enforcing the law. It’s that simple.”
A black battery operated ankle bracelet was fitted on her right leg and she was told what to do if it started to vibrate and how to recharge it. She was told not to try to take the ankle bracelet off and that she could wear it in the shower and there was no chance of getting a shock from it. The ICE officer who put it on said he would meet her at the airport and “discretely take it off” and watch as she boarded the plane out of the U.S.
She was told to report to ICE once a week and to show up in two weeks with an airline ticket out of the United States. She was also warned ICE could come to her home any time day or night to check on her.
She was given five weeks to get her affairs in order before she was returned to a country where she no longer had family, a home or any prospect of employment She is being forced to begin life again at the age of 52.
Neither ICE officer answered when asked what she should do with the two minor U.S. citizens.
A neighbor, who kept saying he was a U.S. citizen, had driven her to the meeting with ICE. “She is a good person” he said “I’ve known her for years. She takes care of her family, she works hard, she pays her taxes. She is not the kind of person who should be deported. She’s not a criminal or in a gang. Why are they doing this?” he asked as he fought back tears.
I explained that none of that mattered to ICE. He asked if they knew she was the mother and grandmother of US citizens and that they’d be affected by their actions. I assured him ICE did know there were other U.S. citizens who would be affected by her deportation. But, to use the words of ICE they’re “just enforcing the law. It’s that simple.”
Unfortunately, it is anything but simple.