In Ohio, we lost a mom of 4 to Trump's ruthless immigration policies
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President Trump’s administration has begun an intense crackdown on immigrants, and American children are paying the price. Two days after her regularly scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, our client, Maribel Trujillo Diaz was snatched off the street outside her home near Cincinnati, Ohio, by ICE agents.  Her four American-born children, ages 3, 10, 12, and 14, were inside the house and never had the chance to say goodbye.  Maribel’s deportation is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Maribel first approached Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, an Ohio-based civil legal aid law firm that provides free legal services to those who cannot afford to pay, two years ago when ICE was trying to deport her and she had nowhere else to turn.  

 

ABLE attorneys recognized that Maribel merited a grant of prosecutorial discretion under the Obama administration’s guidance for such cases. After submitting proof that Maribel is the mother of four U.S. citizen children, all of whom were receiving medical treatment for various illnesses, as well as her strong ties to the community, the absence of a criminal record, and hundreds of letters of support from her fellow parishioners and other community members, ICE agreed not to deport her as long as she attended regular check-ins and complied with certain other conditions.

And then Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem senator: Pardoning targets of Russia probe would be 'crossing a fundamental line' Trump lawyers looking into special counsel's potential conflicts of interest: reports Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report MORE was elected.  Suddenly, at her first check-in of 2017, ICE informed Maribel that she was a “priority” for deportation and fitted her with an ankle monitor.  When her attorney asked why the ankle monitor was necessary in light of her perfect record of attendance at her check-ins, the officer stated, “We have a new president now. I don’t know if you are aware.”

In an April 16, 2017, interview on Meet the Press, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly affirmed that the administration’s focus is on deporting immigrants with serious criminal records or those who pose a threat to public safety. Yet parents of American children with no criminal record remain locked in detention centers across the country. Despite thousands of appeals made on Maribel’s behalf to Secretary Kelly, ICE, and elected officials, she languishes in detention and will be deported in a few days.

Why are peaceful parents of American children increasingly the targets of ICE? Perhaps ICE merely wants to target so-called low-hanging fruit so it can boast of increasing the number of immigrants deported each year.  Maribel was easy for ICE to find precisely because she followed their orders. She attended all her check-in meetings and dutifully reported her address, phone number, place of employment, and work schedule.

But instead of recognizing that Maribel is no threat to anyone, and that her deportation would cause immense suffering to her American children, ICE took her with no warning, ensuring maximum emotional trauma to those children.

The traditionally conservative area of Greater Cincinnati has rallied around Maribel, staging rallies, marches, and vigils in support of keeping her family together.  Local and national politicians and the Archbishop of Cincinnati have weighed in to ask ICE to stop her deportation.  Rarely, if ever, has the plight of a single immigrant family captured the attention of residents in a state like Ohio that is not typically at the forefront of immigration debates.

As the primary breadwinner in her family, Maribel’s four children will no doubt suffer financially if she is forced to leave the United States.  But more importantly, they will grow up without her presence and emotional support.  They will have no mother to kiss a scraped knee, help with homework, guide them gently through the fragile adolescent years, laugh with them and hug them and hold them when they cry.  

Eleven million people living in the United States lack lawful immigration status.  Even assuming that the president can fulfill his campaign promise of a sharp increase in funding to hire more ICE agents, only a tiny fraction of those millions can be deported each year.  Why spend resources to deport a mother of four U.S. citizens who has no criminal record?  And why doesn’t ICE take into account the irreparable damage its choice will inflict on those four young Americans whose close-knit family will be shattered?

All parents can imagine — if we are lucky enough not to have experienced it firsthand — the horror of being permanently separated from our children, without even the opportunity to say goodbye.  Surely for any parent there could be nothing scarier.  And all parents, American-born or not, can attest that our children depend on us as they learn to make their way in the world.  

Regardless of how one feels about immigration policy, we can certainly all agree that no parent should have to live with that fear of a world in which her children must grow up without her.

Emily Brown and Kathleen Kersh are Attorneys at Law at the Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), a non-profit regional law firm based in Ohio.


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