An undocumented 32-year-old mother of three living in Valparaiso, Indiana who was deported to Mexico earlier this week will soon return to the United States after immigration officials reversed their decision to deport her, immigrant advocates said Thursday.
Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martinez's case is far from settled, however, as she is expected to face deportation proceedings when she returns to the United States.
"Thankfully for Lesly she can reunite with her family, even though she could face a long court battle," Cortez-Martinez's attorney Mony Ruiz-Velasco said on a Thursday morning conference call with reporters.
Cortez-Martinez, who came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 15, is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. The program grants temporary protection against deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States prior to the age of 16.
A nursing assistant and mother of three U.S. citizen children, Cortez-Martinez recently received permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to travel to Mexico City to visit her family through the "advance parole" process, immigrant advocates said. But upon her return to the United States last Sunday, she was purportedly detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities at O'Hare International Airport.
Immigrant advocates say Cortez-Martinez was detained, and ultimately deported to Mexico on Tuesday, due to a prior deportation order from 2004. The 2004 deportation order, however, had not impacted Cortez-Martinez's DACA eligibility, according to Ruiz-Velasco. A message seeking comment on the detainment and deportation was left with CBP.
Ruiz-Velasco claims Cortez-Martinez was "wrongfully and inhumanely detained at the airport with her two young children," including an 8-month-old baby. Ruiz-Velasco said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to review the emergency stay of removal she filed on Cortez-Martinez's behalf.
Cortez-Martinez's case set off a social media campaign this week spearheaded by the #Not1More campaign, which has collected over 2,300 signatures against her deportation.
By Wednesday, Ruiz-Velasco said CBP had reversed its deportation order against Cortez-Martinez, allowing her to come back to the United States. Cortez-Martinez is expected to return on Thursday. However, Ruiz-Velasco said CBP intends to place her in deportation proceedings upon her arrival.
"We will be asking and hope that DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] will not place Lesly in removal proceedings so that she can put this horrible experience behind her and be reunited with her family in the United States," Ruiz-Velasco.
Cortez-Martinez said her deportation has been a "heartbreaking" experience for her and her family.
"My husband, I've never seen him cry before. He was hopeless," she said. "I was very scared for my children's future."
Cortez-Martinez said she brought her two youngest children with her to Mexico because it would have been hard for her husband to take care of them alone due to his work schedule.
"My (hope) is that they cancel my deportation and I will be able to be with my husband and my older son," Cortez-Martinez added.
Tania Unzueta, policy director for the #Not1More campaign, spoke to the concerns among immigrant advocates about Cortez-Martinez's case.
"To us, this isn't just a case of one person being mistreated by border patrol," she said. "It really shows to us how agencies within the Department of Homeland Security are not being watched, are not transparent and are not being held accountable. I think her case raises a lot of questions about which agencies hold which agreements and which policies, and brings up larger questions about immigration enforcement and the policies in this country."
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) is among the local groups supporting Cortez-Martinez in her fight against deportation.
With President Barack Obama now in his last year in office, ICIRR's Lawrence Benito commented on the administration's handling of immigration issues.
"There was high hopes for this president, and in the absence of immigration reform, all we've seen is increased deportations more than any other president in history," Benito said. "He's got ten months left to show what he can do differently, but if things don't change, his legacy will be the deporter in chief."