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ICE Detention Exceeds Legal Limit

Mother Pleads for Her Sons Release

El Pregonero, News Report, Andrea Acosta, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: May 24, 2007

Traduccin al espaol

Editors Note: Even after signing a voluntary removal order, Isolina Menjivars 20-year-old son continued to be held in detention. After 15 months, he was finally deported to Honduras. His crime: being undocumented.

WASHINGTON, D.C. A Honduran mother fought alone against the immigration system to free her son, who was in detention for 15 months for the crime of being undocumented.

Isolina Menjivar says her son Carlos Castillo, a 20-year-old student at Bell Multicultural School in Washington, was losing interest in his studies, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and ignoring the advice of others. These warning signs became a reality in November 2005 when the District of Columbia police arrested Carlos and his friends on suspicion of gang-related criminal activity.

My son was acquitted in that case, but the D.C. police reported him to immigration anyway, she explained. Since then, she visited Carlos regularly in the Riverside Prison in Hopewell County, more than three hours from the capital.

I agreed in front of the judge to pay the airline ticket for my son to return to Honduras in March under the voluntary departure plan, which would allow me to negotiate permanent residency and bring him back soon, she said.

But instead of sending him back to Honduras, immigration authorities kept Carlos in detention for months. Isolina cant understand why it took them so long to comply with the judges order.

According to Isolina, immigration authorities didnt let her pay her sons airfare to speed up the process. Instead, they said they would cover the cost and that her son could only return if he were escorted by a special commissioner.

If they deport my son, he wont be allowed back into the country for 10 years, said Isolina, based on what her legal representative told her.

Her lawyer, Hugo Alfaro, assured her that in order to avoid this risk, he asked immigration authorities to negotiate voluntary departure instead of deportation.

Ive sent five letters to Agent Joe Arrieta, who is in charge of the case, but he hasnt answered a single one, he said, frustrated because he wasnt making progress in the negotiation and had exhausted his legal resources.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has six months to deport an immigrant and can extend the deadline by a reasonable period of four months under the law. But in this case, the amount of time exceeded what the law permits.

El Pregonero contacted the immigration agent Arrieta, but he did not respond to the call.

Frustrated, Isolina Menjivar told El Pregonero that what she has lived through is an injustice.

The District of Columbia police say they arent immigration agents, but what theyre saying is a lie, she said.

Isolina has tried to get help from community organizations and her consulate on several occasions, but has been unsuccessful. In 15 months, she did not receive any help with her case, either to cover her sons airfare which other consulates usually do or to get legal assistance for her son.

After she threatened to denounce them publicly, the Honduran consulate this month began working to help her.

Why have they had my son detained this whole time if the judges order says he can leave the country? Why wont immigration allow me to pay his airfare and have my son deported voluntarily? she asked.

I feel that this is discrimination. Its an injustice. They are not respecting the judges order, she insisted during an interview at Mt. Pleasant Park, where she met with activists and others affected by deportations to call for an end to these anti-immigrant procedures.

Isolina Menjivar spoke with various reporters to gain attention for her sons case. To her relief, Carlos Castillo was deported to Honduras in May 2007.

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