By Sandra De Anda
Authorities deported Osvelia Maldonado, a 60-year-old grandmother of nine children, last week from a San Bernardino Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. Before her morning check-in, activists supporting Maldonado were met by a harrowing sight. White nationalists confronted immigrant rights groups, including Orange County Immigrant Youth United, on the steps of the ICE building. Wearing red MAGA hats, they carried signs reading "Illegals go home." This display of in-your-face xenophobia didn't deter anyone protesting ICE that morning.
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Even still, Maldonado walked in without legal representation because her lawyer arrived half-an-hour late. Yael Pineda, her granddaughter and a UCLA graduate, organized the morning protest. "I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness when I wonder about seeing my grandmother again," Pineda told me after the deportation.. "We need to keep resisting no matter what. There needs to be more resources for post-conviction release and more resources while immigrants are in detention."
When Maldonado visited her dying mother in Mexico in 2012, she already had been granted legal permanent residency status two years before. But when Maldonado tried coming back to the U.S., she was detained by for a previous nonviolent misdemeanor that wasn't dismissed on her record. Immigration authorities revoked her residency status. She spent the next 16 months in an ICE detention facility before being released on bond. Maldonado, who lived in the U.S. for almost 30 years, gave up the fight to stay. Going back to the private Adelanto detention facility proved too daunting a prospect.
A review of a year-end Department of Homeland Security report on immigrant detentions and deportations makes two things clear. First, some residents who returned back to Mexico to visit family members were stopped at the border and denied entry. Second, people with or without criminal records were in danger of deportation. The Trump Administration's aim of "public safety" falls on its own face. By ripping a person like Maldonado from her family in the U.S., those left behind suffer financial hardships and psychological trauma.
What can we do in these times of mass deportations? Our communities must take preemptive actions. Residents must strive to get their citizenship. We must have reliable and committed lawyers that can deal with the sensitivity of immigration cases so we don't have any repeated of Maldonado's ordeal. And when families get ripped apart, like the Maldonados, we have to band together and financially support them. We must resist, no matter what!