DILLEY, Texas — Seven women picked up and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early January in widely publicized raids have made a direct and personal plea to President Barack Obama to allow their release while they pursue ongoing appeals of their deportation orders.
The women and their children, representing 33 people in 12 families, were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids over New Year’s weekend. The families obtained temporary stays of their deportation orders with the help of attorneys from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project based at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.
Some of the 121 people ICE picked up were brought to the Dilley facility for processing The majority have been deported to their home countries. But the 12 families who received stays remain in detention, some at Dilley and others at the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.
Despite the fact that all of these women and children appeared at their hearings and consistently abided by the conditions of their release, DHS refuses to release them from custody while the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) considers their legal claims.
Now in their fourth week in detention, the women expressed their frustrations in a handwritten letter to President Obama, pleading with him to release them from detention and allow their children to return to their schools while their legal appeals proceed.
“Why did you choose us to…frighten other Central American families, with no regard for the suffering it causes us and our children?” they ask.
The women say that by trying to make an example of them, the U.S. government has made them more vulnerable. They note further that by seeking asylum they are following the law, but that their due process rights have been violated: “We complied with everything that was asked of us, but it was the system that failed us,” they continue.
In asking the President to hear their pleas, the women said that some in their group are “sick with depression and in psychological crisis.” Protesting their unjust treatment, the women asserted, “We are not criminals who you have to keep locked up. We have not committed any crime and it is unjust that our children, at such an early age, know what it’s like to be in a jail under guard 24 hours, when at this moment they should be in school living life with dignity like every child deserves to.”
The CARA Pro Bono Project continues to provide legal assistance to families held at the Dilley facility, while advocating for an end to family detention.
*The CARA Pro Bono Project is a partnership of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council (Council), Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), that provides legal representation and undertakes advocacy on behalf of women and children held in federal family detention centers.