ICE Agents Detain Mother With Valid Work Visa During Routine Check-In

“After 13 years of fighting an unjust immigration system, my mother was detained by ICE during a routine check in,” lamented Daniela Gaona.



A Florida mother’s routine check-in with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents reportedly ended with her behind bars waiting for deportation orders despite a valid work visa and non-existent criminal record.

Mary Caceres arrived in the United States under a temporary visa in 2005. She belonged to a small town in Colombia that was run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel forces (FARC), according to Think Progress, which altered her last name to protect her privacy.

Caceres, a domestic abuse survivor, was only accompanied by her 9-year-old daughter, Daniela Gaona. For years, the two continued to do everything right – they applied for asylum, paid their taxes and never committed a crime.

“Ever since, she has provided us with a place to stay, food on the table, and she has helped me pay my college tuition,” the daughter wrote on the GoFundMe page she has set up to raise funds for her mother’s legal fee. “There were times where she had to work three jobs, even four jobs at one point, to make ends meet for our family. I cannot think of anyone more selfless and dedicated. She helped me go from community college to graduate school at Johns Hopkins University. I could not have done this without her.”

On the day of her arrest, Caceres had reportedly received a letter stating that she had obtained a temporary work visa from May 15, 2018 to May 15, 2019. She was detained on May 21, which means she already had a valid visa at the time. According to the report, the ICE officers told her they had commuted her work visa to just 3 months and accused her of hiding from authorities all because she had missed a check-in meeting.

The thing is, Caceres never found out about the check-in call as her immigration lawyer had committed suicide.

However, instead of not punishing the woman over something that was completely out of her control, the ICE officers first installed an ankle-monitor on her foot before changing their mind and arresting her.

Gaona was in Baltimore at the time and it took her a good while to track down her mother as immigration officers had processed her through four detention centers before finally imprisoning her at the Broward County Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida.

“After 13 years of fighting an unjust immigration system, my mother was detained by ICE during a routine check in,” the daughter continued. “She is an active member of her community and has a completely clean record.”

Gaona claimed she offered to pay for her mother’s plane ticket to Cambodia, but the authorities even denied that.

“I just want the dignity of at least taking her to the airport and giving her a proper goodbye. She has a life here. A job, a house in her name,” she told Think Progress. “There are some people who are actual criminals and commit crimes intentionally, and then there are people like my mother. It was not our fault we missed that meeting.”

She believes the immigration officials tricked her mother into attending the meeting that led to her incarceration.

“They wouldn’t let me pay for her flight home because they want her detained. They want to make money off of her,” Gaona added.

Meanwhile, the federal agency issued a statement to the publication, commenting on the arrest.

“Mary [Caceres] entered the country on a nonimmigrant visa in September 2005, but failed to depart in accordance with the terms of her admission. On Feb. 15, 2011 an immigration judge issued her a final order of removal, and ICE arrested her May 21 pursuant to the judge’s order,” wrote ICE spokesperson Nestor Ygelsias. “As Director Homan has stated, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Unfortunately, Caceres isn’t the only immigrant without criminal record to be arrested by ICE agents.

Earlier this year, Sudanese asylum-seeker Omer Abdelmaed made headlines after ICE agents arrested him right after his scheduled asylum interview in San Francisco, California. His immigration attorney, Caleb Arring, who was accompanying him at the trial highlighted what could only be described an unprecedented move in a daunting Facebook post, explaining how his client had no criminal record and was punished for opting the legal route to citizenship, which is a much more harder and difficult process.

When President Donald Trump talked about deporting “bad hombres,” did he mean these hardworking people with no criminal background who fled their homelands to avoid violence and poverty?

Banner / Thumbnail : John Moore/Getty Images

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