A combination of an apparent administrative error and the federal government shutdown has resulted in an order for deportation against an 11-year-old girl from El Salvador seeking asylum with her family.
According to the Houston Chronicle, a deportation order against a child who arrived to the U.S. with her family is rare. The family’s attorney, Silvia Mintz, said at a news conference that, “This mistake done by the immigration court has put this family in jeopardy.” Mintz added, “They will be separated if this is not stopped.”
Dora Alvarado, 15-year-old Adamaris Alvarado, and 11-year-old Laura Maradiaga fled death threats against their family due to gang violence in El Salvador and arrived to the U.S. at the southern border in October. They were released pending hearings on their asylum case, and have attended all 10 of their appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement since then, The Washington Post reported.
The Post described the conditions from which the family fled:
Last year, her mother, Dora Alvarado, said she realized that if Laura and her 15-year-old sister, Adamaris Alvarado, didn’t flee El Salvador, they would die. Gang members had already been killing their family members after one of Laura’s relatives witnessed a murder and testified in court, and then Adamaris was accosted by a member of MS-13, who threatened to murder her and her family if she talked about the harassment.
A court hearing scheduled for Feb. 2 in Houston was postponed due to President Donald Trump’s federal government shutdown over demands for border wall funding from Congress. The family appeared at the rescheduled hearing on March 12, but 11-year-old Laura’s name was not on the docket.
A court interpreter told Laura’s mother, who doesn’t speak English, not to worry about it.
The same day, an immigration judge issued an order of removal for Laura claiming that she had failed to show up for court on March 12. “Whether the court translator available that day provided incorrect information, or the girl’s case fell through the cracks, is unclear,” the Chronicle reported.
Dora received a letter in English about Laura’s deportation order a few days later. But she didn’t understand what it said until this week, when the family returned to court.
The family’s attorney has said she will file a motion to reopen Laura’s case.
“It’s a sad story that we’re hoping for a happy ending, or at least a peaceful ending, where the family gets to stay together and not have an 11-year-old removed from her mother,” Mintz said, according to the Post.
Meanwhile, Laura is studying English and math at the Fondren Middle School in Houston, and hopes to one day become a police officer to “keep people safe from the bad guys.”
At a press conference, Laura said, “I feel bad because I don’t want to be separated from my family.”
As HuffPost reported, Houston’s police chief, Art Acevedo, had some strong words about Laura’s deportation order. “The Nazi’s enforced their laws as well. You don’t separate children from their families! Ever!” he tweeted.