A 34-year-old deported mother and daughter whom a federal court ordered returned to the United States have been found in the mountains of western Guatemala. She wants to return to America, according to her lawyer.
“When am I leaving?” the mother, Ana, asked her attorney when reached in Guatemala over the weekend, according to the lawyer, Bridget Cambria of Reading, Pa.
Ana and her 12-year-old daughter were deported early Friday morning from a Pennsylvania family detention center. Hours later, a federal judge in Philadelphia ordered government officials to stop her at the airport in Guatemala City or find her inside the country and bring her back to the United States.
It was too late to reach Ana, who is Guatemalan, at the airport. With no idea of the court’s decision, she borrowed money from friends and made the hours-long trek north into the western highlands of Guatemala, where she has family. Her lawyer, Cambria, reached her staying with friends. Ana was surprised to hear from her attorney who was 2,000 miles away, Cambria said.
She wanted to know what happened, Cambria said. Ana had no advance warning that she was going to be deported. She wanted to know what would happen when she returned. Would she have to go back to the Berks County Residential Center where she had been living since last summer?
“Her questions were, ‘Are we going to be detained or am I going to be with my family?’” Cambria said. “But to be honest, the first thing she said is, ‘I just want to come back.’ She’s been detained a year and she still would rather be where she was than where she is now.”
McClatchy isn’t sharing Ana’s last name because of concerns she and her lawyer have about possible reprisals from those she had fled in Guatemala. She applied for asylum on the basis of domestic violence following abuse by her partner.
Cambria had asked the court to block Ana’s deportation while her latest appeal was pending. In his order, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Theodore A. McKee said the court would have granted Cambria’s request to block the deportation had the court known Ana and her daughter were going to be deported.
Cambria said she shared Ana’s contact information in Guatemala with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It will now be up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to garner travel documents and arrange transportation for Ana’s return, Cambria said.
The Obama administration operates three family detention centers, in Berks County, Pa., and Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, holding more than 750 parents and children, most from Central America.