Protesters rally against the separation of immigrant families in front of a U.S. federal court on July 11, 2018 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Image: Getty

In the New Yorker, Dave Eggers writes about the case of Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, a Honduran woman who fled an abusive husband with her oldest daughter and sought asylum in the United States. Under previous administrations, Arevalo-Herrera would have been able to claim asylum and even become a greencard holder. But due to the Trump administrationā€™s policies, along with a total failure to notify Arevalo-Herrera of her immigration hearing, Arevalo-Herrera now lives in a church basement with her daughter, under fear of deportation.

As an asylum-seeker, Arevalo-Herrera has a right to an immigration hearing, in which a judge hears her caseā€”or at least, she did. In June, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the Justice Departmentā€™s policy and barred victims of domestic violence from seeking asylum. He has also made it harder for immigrants to claim asylum by removing a requirement that grants them a hearing in front to an immigration judge, and by imposing a quota on how many cases judges must close per year in a system that is already overburdened. As a result, Arevalo-Herreraā€™s fate is uncertain.

Advertisement

Another appalling fact about Arevalo-Herreraā€™s case: The government blames her for missing a court date that she was never told about it, and faces deportation as a result.

Upon arriving in the U.S. five years ago, Arevalo-Herrera was given a ā€œNotice to Appearā€ā€”a document that was supposed to tell her when, and where, her immigration hearing would be. ā€œThis Notice to Appear provided an exact addressā€”2009 West Jefferson Avenue, Suite 300, Harlingen, Texasā€”but, where one would expect to see an assigned date and time, the words ā€˜to be setā€™ were typed,ā€ Eggers reports. She provided DHS the address of family in Richmond, but says that she never received a notice with the time or date of her court appearance. ā€œOn March 10, 2015, she was tried in absentia in an immigration court in Harlingen, and was ordered to leave the country.ā€

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requires that a Notice to Appear must specify the ā€œtime and place at which the proceedings will be held.ā€ Yet Arevalo-Herrera is one of ā€œthousands,ā€ Eggers writes, who are ā€œare never told when to show up, and are tried in absentia, with few if any options to reopen their cases.ā€

Advertisement

There is little immigration lawyers can do, despite the fact that Arevalo-Herrera is married to a permanent resident and therefore may be eligible for an adjustment of status:

There is a simpler way for Arevalo-Herrera to stay in the country. In 2016, federal regulations were changed, making someone like her, who is married to a lawful permanent resident, eligible for a green card. She would return to Honduras for a medical exam and an interview with the State Department, and, after period of timeā€”Kilpatrick says it could be between three weeks and three monthsā€”return to the United States with a green card. But iceā€™s position is that Arevalo-Herreraā€™s original sinā€”that of missing her first court appearanceā€”supersedes all other considerations. This was, again, the court appearance for which they didnā€™t give her the time or date. ā€œWhatā€™s particularly egregious about the actions of ice in this case,ā€ Kilpatrick said, ā€œis that they know that Abbieā€™s husband has a green card, and that sheā€™s eligible to remain in the United States while she adjusts her status. But they just donā€™t care.ā€

Read more about Arevalo-Herreraā€™s case here.