ICE releases local ‘Dreamer’

Riccy Enriquez-Perdomo clutches her sister Rita and son Rony on release from ICE custody, while daughter Melanie embraces her from the side.

Dreamer released after narrowly avoiding deportation. But her DACA rights were not restored and her release is subject to an Order of Supervision. Many unanswered questions remain as uncertainty around DACA grows.

After one week in custody, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released Riccy Enriquez-Perdomo Thursday evening into the embrace of family, friends, and supporters, who had gathered at the Boone County Jail to welcome her home from the brink of deportation.

Even though the Department of Homeland Security had granted her temporary protection from deportation and authority to work in the United States through January 2019, DHS’s ICE agents arrested her at the agency’s Louisville office on Aug. 17.  

At the time of her arrest, the 22-year old mother of two children, ages 11 months and 5 years, was working as a volunteer for her church, helping someone pay an immigration bond.

The agency says their records indicated that she was not a legal permanent resident, as she had inaccurately claimed, and that her DACA status under the DHS program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals had expired in March.

“I never thought this was going to happen,” says Enriquez-Perdomo, who believed that her DACA status would protect her, as it had many times before when she helped others in their dealings with ICE.

But for her and her extended family in the Cincinnati area, the idea that ICE had made an honest mistake that would quickly be corrected gave way to darker possibilities.

ICE releases Dreamer
Riccy Enriquez-Perdomo responds to questions from the press in front of the Boone County Jail where she was released on Aug. 24.

Once she was moved from Boone County Jail on Aug. 21, it became difficult to track her whereabouts and communicate with her. She was moved daily from one detention center to another until she reached McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility outside of Chicago, feared as the last stop before a one-way trip back to Honduras, the country she left in 2004 as a child at age nine.

Robert Cote, Enriquez-Perdomo’s brother-in-law, said an ICE agent in Chicago told him that DACA went away when Trump came into power.

“She was on the list to be deported next week,” says Rita Cote, 32, Enriquez-Perdomo’s older sister and the wife of Mr. Cote, according to information the Honduran consulate in Chicago shared with the family after its discussions with ICE. “They told us the travel documents were all in place.”

There are reports that the Trump Administration may be placing greater reliance on “expedited removal” of undocumented immigrants as a cost-effective way to unclog immigration courts and the deportation pipeline at the risk of denying some people of their Constitutionally protected due process rights.

According to its own internal protocols, however, DHS would need to first revoke DACA before deporting a person who had a valid grant of DACA, says Joshua Stehlik, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles.

Mr. Cote believes that his sister-in-law would have been deported next week based on a 2004 deportation order if ICE had been able to avoid the political and media attention the case received.

Lawyer and immigration activist Don Sherman organized support from the local community and, with the help of America’s Voice, support from the national community and national political leaders like U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), ranking member of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. America’s Voice partners with groups to support immigration reform.

“He’s like our hero,” said Ms. Cote, referring to Sherman. “He’s been everything for us.”

Enriquez-Perdomo said she relied on prayer to help her through the ordeal. A frequent prayer was to be reunited with her son, Rony, by his first birthday on Aug. 31. “So I’m here. And I thank God so much.” Members of her church, Ministério Jesus Liberta in Covington, had planned a special meal for her homecoming.

ICE releases Dreamer
Enriquez-Perdomo’s son Rony takes in the crowd from a perch in his mother’s arms.

ICE explained Enriquez-Perdomo’s release on Aug. 24 saying, “After additional investigation, however, it was revealed that she is currently a DACA recipient and is being released from ICE custody.”

While she has been released from custody, her rights as a DACA recipient have not been restored. ICE reportedly did not return Enriquez-Perdomo’s DACA identification card, employment authorization card, and Kentucky driver’s license.

The agency also set conditions on her release under an Order of Supervision that requires her to appear in ICE offices on Oct. 24 at 10:21 in the morning. Ms. Cote fears that her sister may be required to wear an electronic tracking device.

The order sets out other restrictions also apply to her release. She must appear at the request of ICE “for identification and deportation or removal.” She is not to travel outside of Kentucky for more than 48 hours without prior approval of the Louisville ICE office.

Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., approximately 800,000 are reported to have DACA status.

DACA recipients often head immigrant households even though they are young, says Samantha Searls, who coordinates the Immigrant Dignity Coalition of 23 labor, civil rights, and faith communities in the greater Cincinnati area for the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.

Because they can drive, work, take out loans, buy cars, and otherwise care for family members who are undocumented or are too young, they must carry a heavy burden of family responsibility, she says.

Without DACA, these struggling households would be further stressed. And, she says, the country would lose an upcoming generation of young people determined to make the American Dream a reality for themselves and their families.

As an example, Searls points to Jose Cabrera, a head of household and senior studying entrepreneurship at Xavier University, whose past accomplishments and future hopes depend significantly on DACA.

ICE releases Dreamer
Enriquez-Perdomo’s husband Rony with their son Rony.

When the federal government breaks its promise of deferred action to DACA recipients, it erodes their faith in the program and instills fear about their future in the country, says Stehlik. It opens the worst case possibility. That is, DACA is gutted, and the government decides to share with ICE the private information on young immigrants, which it collected as part of the application process, in order to facilitate their deportation.

DACA is under political attack from some Republicans and potentially legal attack from a 10-state coalition of state attorneys general.  The coalition has threatened to file a lawsuit to block DACA using the same legal theory that succeeded in blocking Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) in 2015.

But Enriquez-Perdomo and the DACA program have a stalwart ally in Mr. Cote, a combat veteran of Bosnia and Desert Storm. “I fought for my country, and now I have to fight to keep my family together. It infuriates me.”

“Trump says he wants to make America great again. But tearing apart families is not making America great.”

By Mike Brown, mbrown.c4ad@gmail.com

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