CALA received a referral from a community activist for a mother whose son was recently detained, after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers came to his home and took him away. We promised to look into the case, once the family sent us information and documents about the case.

Before we were able to investigate the case, we received a panicked call from the family, who had been refused entry into the detention center where the son was placed because "he's no longer there and on the bus." They were desperately afraid that the “bus” referred to the bus that took detainees to the airport for deportation, despite not having had any hearings or other opportunity to defend himself.

Worried that he had been coerced into signing a stipulation of removal or voluntary departure, we spent the next over two hours trying to locate him, as well as develop an extensive record revoking any "agreement" he may have signed. Eventually, we discovered through the Mexican consulate that not only was he on the list of deportees for that day, but that his flight had already taken off for Mexico.

Lam Ho, our executive director, and one of our volunteer translators immediately went to the immigration court to see if we could obtain some sort of injunctive relief or stay that would at least keep him in the US, so he would have the opportunity to defend himself with legal assistance. However, the immigration court would not even hear his case, confirming that he had been removed through administrative removal (a process which does not require that the detainee have a hearing or judicial involvement). Consequently, the court refused jurisdiction of the deportation.

At this point, there were only a few hours left before the client would be out of the US, and the only recourse--an appeal to the Seventh Circuit of the administrative removal order--futile due to time. Without any other choice, out of sheer desperation, we went to the Chicago ICE office. We basically threw the kitchen sink, and the sofa, of arguments for why our client should be returned to Chicago, at ICE and hoped that something would work! We were eventually able to persuade ICE to stop his deportation and protect his right to due process.

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