Earlier this year, a 24-year-old immigrant was reportedly handcuffed and thrown in jail after she voluntarily visited the Martin County Jail in Florida to pay the fine for a traffic violation. Despite holding no criminal record and the fact she has three young kids, two of whom were born in the United States, the police alerted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and turned over the woman.
Identified only as Maria, the young mother reportedly fled Guatemala in 2012. After entering the United States as an undocumented immigrant, the woman settled in Chicago with her young daughter and worked relentlessly to make the ends meet. During this time, she applied for citizenship and had two more kids, reported the Miami New Times.
According to her lawyer Jonathan Urrutia, who works with the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Maria missed one of her court dates after she went into labor.
Later, the family moved to Florida, where Maria was recently stopped for driving without a proper license. However, when she showed up to pay the $150 ticket, she was taken into custody and shipped off to the Broward Transitional Center. The publication described it as “a privately run Pompano Beach detention center for ‘low-level’ detainees being deported despite having either committed low-level, nonviolent offenses like traffic violations or no crimes whatsoever.”
Shortly before she was transferred to the ICE facility, the legal aid services instructed her to pay the $750 bond and leave the jail before immigration officials arrived. Even though Maria reportedly paid the amount, she was not released.
What’s worse, she said the Martin County Jail officials also kept her money.
“She has paid her bond of $750, which means that there is no longer a lawful basis for her detention,” Urrutia wrote to jail officials. “Thus, the continued detention of my client constitutes a new arrest that requires probable cause under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Maria is only allowed to meet her children for an hour every week. She said her eldest daughter, who was forced to spend three weeks in federal detention after the pair crossed the border, is still traumatized by her experience.
“They give me 60 to 90 minutes one time a week with my kids," the mother told New Times. "Imagine. I am their mother! That is very little time. They cry. They sob. 'Mami, vamos,' they say. The 9-year-old is scared she will be detained. She comes to visit me, but she is waiting to be arrested. She says 'Mami, I don’t want to go back into detention.'"
The Trump administration might have reversed its inhumane child separation policy, but it continues to split families apart by incarcerating hardworking people who escaped the horrors of gang violence and poverty in their homelands and arrived in the United States with hopes of finding a safe haven for their children.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Wang Lunyi/EyeEm via Getty Images