A group of immigration judges is defying rulings by the nation’s largest federal appellate court and has kept hundreds of people, possibly thousands, behind bars, sometimes for years, without any chance to make their case for freedom. The detainees are caught in a crossfire between the judges and one of the highest courts in the land.
“The first time that he hit me, he hit me in the stomach with his fist. Not that hard, but he hit me. He yelled at me that he didn’t want the baby.”
It was Aug. 2, 2017, Monica Marroquin-Perez’ 459th day in Eloy Detention Center, a maximum security facility in the remote desert town of Eloy, Ariz. The 21-year-old’s voice began to crack as she testified through an interpreter about why she fled her home in Guatemala.
Wearing a green uniform signifying she is a low-risk detainee, Monica sat at the front of the courtroom trying to convince Immigration Judge John W. Davis that sending her back to Guatemala could put her life in danger.
This wasn’t the first time she had been apprehended after entering the United States. On Jan. 21, 2016, she was caught by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas. Monica, a Spanish speaker, said she signed papers that she believed would start her asylum process. Instead, she was deported five days later.
In April 2016, Monica was picked up a second time for entering the United States. But this time, when Citizenship and Immigration Services officers heard Monica’s story, including claims that her ex-boyfriend was abusive and had ties to gangs and corrupt officials in Guatemala and Mexico, they concluded her story was “credible” and that there was a “reasonable fear” of danger if she was sent home. That decision cleared the way for Monica to tell her story to an immigration judge and possibly get a ruling that would prevent her from being sent back to Guatemala.
By Mark Greenblant for KSHB.COM
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