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Isidora Lopez-Venegas is the mother of an autistic U.S. citizen son. She was arrested by Border Patrol and told — wrongly —that she could easily obtain legal status through her son once she was in Mexico. In fact, once outside the United States, she would have to wait approximately 10 years before returning home to California. But if she had seen an immigration judge, she could have presented her strong claims to stay. Instead Isidora, accompanied by her son, had to leave the United States. They were only able to return home after the ACLU filed a lawsuit.
The majority of people deported from the United States each year — like Isidora — are never given a chance to have their claims heard in court. President Obama’s November 2014 temporary reprieve to millions of immigrants at risk of deportation does not address the fact that the judicial process is often bypassed.
People denied of their due process rights include asylum seekers, children, people with mental disabilities, U.S. citizens, and people lawfully working in and visiting the United States. They already had rights or claims to stay in the United States — but that wasn’t enough to protect them. For these individuals, their fates were decided by immigration enforcement officers, not judges.
Our report American Exile: Rapid Deportations That Bypass the Courtroom explains the underbelly of U.S. immigration policy through the stories of many people who had rights to be here or would be allowed to stay in the United States — if just given a chance. These are some of their stories.
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Fall of Your Sword “Tempeh”