A 34-year-old deported mother and daughter whom a federal court ordered returned to the United States were placed back in a Pennsylvania detention center for several hours Friday before being released.
Federal officials tracked down Ana and her 12-year-old daughter in the mountains of western Guatemala, where she has family. At 1 a.m. Eastern time Friday, she arrived back at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania. She had no idea they would be released on the same day.
When Ana spoke to her lawyer Friday morning, she expressed mixed feelings about being back in the United States, said Bridget Cambria of Reading, Pa., Ana’s attorney. On the one hand, she was here and able to continue fighting her asylum case. On the other hand, she was back in the detention center, where they had lived for a year before being deported last month, Cambria recalled.
Only later would they learn that Ana and her daughter would be released that afternoon with at least four other families, Cambria said. Ana was released with an ankle bracelet.
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“I wish I could see her face now,” Cambria said Friday afternoon. “I bet she and her daughter are relieved. I know her family has been on an emotional roller coaster.”
The mother and daughter were deported last month from the detention center. While the two were still on the plane, a federal judge in Philadelphia ordered government officials to stop them at the airport in Guatemala City or find them inside the country and bring them back to the United States.
Officials didn’t reach her at the airport. Ana had no idea about the order when she borrowed money from friends and made the hours-long trek north into the western highlands of Guatemala.
Cambria, who helped officials find Ana in the mountains, said Ana was surprised and excited to learn that a judge had ordered her return. She also was nervous and didn’t want to be returned to the detention center, Cambria said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed Ana and her daughter were released Friday afternoon and Ana was given an electronic monitoring device. Officials said they complied with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order to bring Ana and her daughter back from Guatemala to continue with their immigration proceedings. In a separate family detention legal case, federal officials told the court that only parents and children who are subject to mandatory detention or who are considered a flight risk or a danger to society are being detained.
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.
In his June 19 order, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Theodore A. McKee said the court would have granted Cambria’s request to block Ana’s deportation pending another appeal had the court known Ana and her daughter were going to be deported.
The Obama administration operates three family detention centers, in Berks County, Pa., and in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, holding more than 2,350 parents and children, most from Central America.