An 11-Year-Old Girl Could Be Deported Without Her Family

Girl with braids.
Photo: © 2013 Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

An 11-year-old girl could get deported without her family, all because of what her lawyers say was a clerical error precipitated by the government shutdown, the Houston Chronicle reports.

In March, an Salvadoran woman named Dora Alvarado, who came to the U.S. with her two daughters seeking asylum, received a letter in English — a language she can neither speak nor read. It came a few days after she had appeared in Houston immigration court with her children, 15-year-old, Adamaris Alvarado and 11-year-old Laura Maradiaga. When the three arrived in court again this week, a translator at court clarified it for her: The letter was a removal order for Laura.

According to the order, Laura faces deportation because she was not present for the initial March court appearance — except, she was. When the family arrived at court that day, Laura’s name was not on the docket along with her mother’s and sister’s, but she was present. But now, either because a court translator gave the family incorrect information or because Laura’s case was overlooked, the girl could be deported to El Salvador alone — a possibility that horrifies the family.

“I feel bad because I don’t want to be separated from my family,” Laura said during a Thursday news conference, as she held her mother’s hand and fought back tears. “I don’t want to be taken away from my mom.”

The Executive Office for Immigration Review says it is looking into the case, and the family’s immigration lawyer, Silvia Mintz, says she’s filing a motion to reopen it. “This mistake done by the immigration court has put this family in jeopardy,” she said at the conference. The family’s attorneys have also noted how chaotic the immigration courts system has been in the aftermath of the government shutdown, which has led to cases falling through the cracks. (The family’s court appearance was originally set to be during the shutdown but was later rescheduled.)

“It’s a sad story that we’re hoping for a happy ending, or at least a peaceful ending, where the family gets to stay together and not have an 11-year-old removed from her mother,” Mintz said. “I hope the judge can see it was a clear mistake on behalf of the court. I don’t think it was ill-intentioned, but it shows how overworked these courts are.”

An 11-Year-Old Girl Could Be Deported Without Her Family