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“Even if You Win, You Stay Locked Up”: How ICE Uses Appeals to Keep Immigrants in Detention

October 04, 2021 (1 min read)

Isabela Dias, Mother Jones, Oct. 1, 2021

"Sara Mendez-Morales had lost almost all hope. It was a cold stretch in early February, and she had spent nearly six months in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Butler County Jail, a notorious detention center about 35 miles north of Cincinnati. ... After she described her ordeal to Judge Imbacuan, he granted her protection from deportation on February 1, 2021. In a 14-page decision, the judge, who doesn’t often side with immigrants, agreed with her lawyer and the expert witness, saying that if Mendez-Morales were deported and her aggressors found her, she’d likely suffer “even worse torture.” His ruling was nothing short of a lifeline for Mendez-Morales. Finally, someone had believed her. ... For 20 days, Mendez-Morales sat in detention eagerly awaiting her release and reconnecting after nearly two long years with her two US citizen daughters, who’d been placed in foster care. Then ICE appealed the decision. ... Finally, on August 26, Maya and others’ efforts and Mendez-Morales’ resilience paid off—she was released from ICE detention. The BIA decided to dismiss the government’s appeal. “The BIA decision was pretty short, just stated that they wouldn’t disrupt the credibility finding and that Sara met her burden,” Alabasi wrote me in an email. She had won her case for a second time."