ICE and Nursing Mothers–To Bond or Not To Bond
A week ago I was contacted by a reporter in North Carolina who became involved in a story about a undocumented immigrant. The undocumented immigrant has been in the United States for 13 years, was the mother of five U.S. Citizen children, ranging in age from 9 1/2 to 9 months. She was taken into ICE custoday after local police responded to a domestic distrubance call at her home. She called the police because was being threatened, and had previously been beaten by the father of her youngest child. The police took her into custody (yes, you read that correctly, the police took HER into custody because she was undocumented (they also arrested the father of her youngest child). The local police have a 287(g) agreement with ICE. So, ICE came and took this woman, who had been charged with NO crime, away from her North Carolina home and moved her to the Etowah County, Alabama Detention Facility, about 400 miles from her home. She has held here there for the last two weeks. The children were taken by social services in North Carolina when she she was arrested by ICE.
When I became aware of this case last Friday, I immediately called the ICE detention officer responsible for her case. A nice officer who answered the phone informed me that the officer repsonsible for her case was at the “Range” that day, and would get back to me on Monday this week. I emphasized to this officer that this was a NURSING mother, and it appeared she had not been given the necessary equipment to retain her ability to keep giving milk to her nine month old child. Now, the failure of ICE to do this is directly contrary to their own policy. More importantly, it violated not only the due process rights of this person and basic human decency, it cost this U.S. Citizen child the ability to be fed with his mother’s milk, to be suddenly and unexpectly weaned, and to suffer as a result.
It gets worse. I filed for a bond hearing, because despite calls to ICE to set a bond, none was set. At the Bond Hearing this morning, the government lawyer looked at the file, after being handed the birth certificates of the five U.S. Citizen children and said that she would agree to a $5,000 bond! $5,000??? It may as well have been a million dollars. This woman has $800 to her name. Where is she going to get $5,000 I asked? The Judge, after an extended argument from me, granted a lower bond of $3,000. We are working now with a community group in the Charlotte area to raise the $3,000 to get this mother reunited with her children.
Now, I relate this story not to raise money or create sympathy. But, rather, to point out that things have no changed so much under the Obama Administration. There is no legitimate reason why a cancellation eligible, single mother of five U.S. Citizen children is detained at all, let alone on a bond that it so high it may as well have been no bond.
I also relate to this story because I know hundreds of other immigration lawyers who can relate similar cases. The reality is that until Justice prevails in immigration court, for someone like this single mother, there will be no justice at all for anyone. We should be outraged by this case. We should be outrage by all the cases that scream for someone to pay attention and demand that the Constitution, the Law and basic human decency be followed.