Chicago Grandmother Facing Deportation Sues DHS

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Chicago grandmother and long-time immigration activist Genoveva Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this week to petition its immigration service review a long-pending visa application before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deports her in October. ICE told Ramirez during a check-in appointment in August that she must purchase plane tickets and leave the United States by October 31st, even as she awaits a decision by another DHS agency – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – on whether to grant her U-visa protection. “As a long-time immigrant activist, I’ve seen the ways that ICE justify breaking families and communities like mine apart. I’ve seen how they criminalize and dehumanize us, and I’ve fought against that. Today, I am suing DHS because I refuse to allow their own internal negligence and processing delays to become another excuse for breaking my family apart,” said Ramirez, who is also a leader with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

The 67-year-old grandmother of ten, originally from Mexico, has lived in the United States for nearly two decades. She filed a U-visa application in September 2016 after she and her grandson were physically assaulted during a home invasion and she subsequently assisted in the police investigation. Delays in the USCIS adjudication process have caused U-visa applicants to wait as much as three years for decisions on their applications. “Despite the fact that USCIS and ICE are both sub-agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE has not asked USCIS to expedite Ramirez’s application, nor postponed Ramirez’s deportation while USCIS makes a decision on her application,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, litigation attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), who is representing Ramirez in her federal lawsuit. “The position she is in now shows the devastating consequences of an immigration system that is totally illogical and broken.” In the lawsuit, Ramirez asks the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois Court to order USCIS to either make a preliminary determination that she is eligible for a U-visa so that ICE may stay her removal, or adjudicate her application entirely so that she can stay in the United States.

“Chicago ICE Director Ricardo Wong abused his authority and discretion when he denied Ms. Ramirez’s request for a stay of removal, but USCIS can and should intervene immediately. USCIS cannot stand by as families like Ramirez’s are torn up because of contradictory protocols and processing delays,” added Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO-West Suburban Action Project and Ramirez’s immigration attorney. Ramirez announced her lawsuit alongside the family of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, another OCAD member, who in May, filed a lawsuit against the Chicago ICE office for its use of excessive force and violence. Catalan-Ramirez is also suing the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department for erroneously placing him in the City’s controversial gang database and for its role in colluding to place Catalan-Ramirez in ICE custody and deportation proceedings.

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