When she was 11 years old, Leslie Hernandez was brought to the United States illegally. Two years later her mother was arrested for an incident, turned over to Immigration, and given a notice to appear in immigration court. Leslie, although a 13-year-old minor at the time, was also ordered to appear in immigration court. The documents were handed to her mother, her mother ended up being deported, but Leslie stayed behind. Unknown to Leslie, she was ordered removed in absentia at this time, meaning the court had decided to order her deportation without Leslie’s presence in court. After 16 years in the country Leslie was living with her three young children in Detroit when on October 24, 2011 she was pulled over outside of her home. The officers entered the house without a warrant, and she was arrested and scheduled for immediate deportation based upon the old in absentia order.
By the time our firm received her case in November 2011, Leslie was being held in the St. Clair County Jail. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were making arrangements to have her summarily deported. ICE was demanding that Leslie’s sister-in-law obtain passports for her U.S. citizen children, but she was unable to do so because she was not their mother. This delay allowed us to enter the case, and stop the deportation. We obtained a stay of deportation based on a motion to reopen her deportation case on the grounds that she was improperly ordered removed in absentia. On December 27, 2011 an immigration judge denied our motion. At this time it looked as though Leslie’s deportation was imminent.
Within a couple of weeks Leslie’s case had received national media attention. She was a clearly innocent victim of the legal system who had been brought here as a child, had lived most of her life here, started a family, and never violated any laws. Her supporters protested the deportation of a woman who was as American as any one, except for the place of her birth, and who was about to be deported to Mexico, a country she knew little about, and where she not lived since she was a child. We filed a timely appeal of the Judge’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). On January 10, 2012 after a lot of hard work from community support groups and our firm, Leslie was provisionally released from jail while her appeal of the immigration Judge’s denial of our motion to reopen was pending. She was given an Order of Supervision and told to get her children passports immediately so that if we lost the appeal and she was deported they would be able to travel with her.
Despite the tumultuous nature of the case, things began to look brighter for Leslie. On June 15, 2012 the Obama administration passed a memorandum called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which postpones the prosecution of illegal immigrants who came into the country as children. In September our firm filed a DACA application for Leslie and on March 26, 2013 the BIA upheld our appeal and ordered her deportation case terminated. She is now able to remain in the United States and when her DACA application is approved, which is expected to happen soon, she will be able to work legally, have a driver’s license, and live like a normal person free from fear of deportation.