The family of a Las Vegas woman says immigration enforcement snatched her. Now, the family, her attorney and immigration activists are trying to prevent her deportation.
The family of Cecilia Gomez says she showed up at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Office for what she thought was an interview to become a U.S. citizen but instead, she was taken into custody and nearly deported.
“I am here to tell the community to watch out for these people who took away my mother and his mother,” said Ricardo Alvalar, son.
The 18-year-old says he’s taking care of his 13-year-old brother Eric after his mother didn’t returned home more than a week ago.
They say Gomez received a notice to show up on March 27 for what she thought may be a final step to become a U.S. citizen.
“She is taken away into a private room, supposedly for the purpose of an interview where she is then immediately confronted by immigration agents where she is assaulted, intimidated and coerced,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, Las Vegas Worker’s Center.
Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “What proof do you have about any assault?”
Bliss Requa-Trautz: “Right now we have testimony from Cecilia.”
Gomez’s sons, and even her attorney, say they haven’t been able to see her, but they have talked by phone.
Laura Barrera at the UNLV Immigration Clinic says Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE was in the process of deporting Gomez, but now there is a stay, meaning the issue will be looked at by an immigration court.
“This is someone who has three U.S. citizen children, no criminal record, and has proven for more than 20 years that she is a law abiding member of society,” Barrera said.
She says Gomez has been undocumented for more than 20 years. When her son turned 21 last year, he petitioned for her to begin the path to U.S. citizenship. Turns out, she had a notice for deportation in 1998 which Barrera claims Gomez never knew about.
“I really wish she was coming back home,” said Eric Alvalar-Gomez, Gomez’s son.
“There was no legal avenue for her to start the process until her oldest child turned 21, it’s not possible to just apply to become a permanent resident. You need to have a U.S. citizen, spouse, or adult child, 21-year-old child. It wasn’t possible for her to apply before now. They did it as soon as they could,” Barrera said. “Why not focus on people with a criminal record?”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration released the following statement:
“USCIS conducts interviews to determine an applicant’s eligibility for the benefit sought, including providing the applicant an opportunity to provide additional details relevant to adjudicating that benefit, while taking the existence of a final order into account.”
So, they won’t discuss specifics for Gomez which is policy but reading between the lines, they’re referring to her order for deportation which her attorney claims, she knew nothing about.
Gomez has a team of supporters. They claim she was assaulted by an ICE officer. ICE responded to the claims by sending a statement to the I-Team:
“Ms. Gomez-Nolasco, a citizen of Mexico illegally living in the United States, was ordered removed by an immigration judge in August 1998. Subject to that order, she was arrested and taken into custody March 27 by deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As the agency tried to effect her removal, it received notification that a motion to reopen her case had been made with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Next steps in her immigration case are under review.
All allegations of physical abuse and mistreatment by ICE officers in this case are patently false. ICE is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody, and has a strict zero-tolerance policy for any abusive or inappropriate behavior by its employees. That said, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.”