My name is Maria*. I have been living in the U.S. for 14 years, but now I am in immigration detention in Illinois. It is painful and exhausting when you don’t have anyone’s support. Being incarcerated because of this country’s immigration laws can be terrifying, and people, out of fear, can be scared to help you. On top of that, it is very expensive to hire an attorney. This is what I am going through now. I need an attorney because my court date is soon and I have no idea what I am going to do. My daughters are what I live for and our separation is painful to me. Especially because I have an 8 month-old baby. My daughters need me! I feel so abandoned because the only family I have are my daughters. They are suffering and cry every day for me because I don’t have the money to pay for an attorney or for bail. Oh my God, this is so hard, because I just want to be with my daughters.
My story is a long one, but the nightmare began on January 11th, 2018 when I had to go to court in Kankake, Illinois. Coming out of the judge’s room, Immigration officers were waiting for me. They took me into a room to arrest me. They asked if I had children and I told them I did. But I was in shock. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. At that time I had left my 10 year-old daughter and my 7 month-old baby at the house, because I thought I was going to go back home, that everything would go the same way it had in the past. But it wasn’t like that. I pleaded with the agent to let me speak to someone so that they could go and pick up my daughters, but they were rude and didn’t care. They were heartless. The man was Filipino and I thought to myself, how could someone who is also an immigrant have so much hate, or racism, to deport a fellow immigrant from this country?
I am a single mother and I work 7 days week. Everything that one does is just so that their children can have a better life than one’s self. Anyway, later they took me to Chicago and there they took my fingerprints, etc. After their routine search — a horror — I began to realize what was happening and started to cry. I called my Consulate, but they were no help. On the contrary, they told me I’d soon be deported. Wow, what a thing to say.
“At times I feel like what I imagine the Jews felt in the times of Hitler…”
But the nightmare didn’t end there. I was able to speak to my daughter by telephone and I told her to call our neighbor so that she could come and get her and my baby. From that moment I haven’t been able to see my little girls, even my little one. That very same day I was taken to the McHenry jail, supposedly only temporarily. I started to cry again, and to this day I am praying for my release. The food isn’t the best but I don’t complain because our Father blesses me every day. I ask that I will see my daughters soon. I am looking for a lawyer to take my case here, but it is very slow. My court date is soon and it scares me to think what will happen in court without anyone to represent me. But God is my rock and my protector in the face of this situation. I only ask for a miracle and for some mercy for this mother that is suffering every day, as are all of my companions in here with me so far from their children.
I don’t have money to buy things, like shampoo, but I don’t need it because I know soon I will be getting out of here. I just need help taking up a collection for when I am released on bail, because I need to get back and see my daughters. My heart breaks when I have money to call them and they cry and tell me they love and me and want me to come back soon. My littlest one is with her father (or with my second relationship) but he won’t answer the phone. All I want to know is how she is. I don’t have any control over this because I am in the hands of the enemy.
At times I feel like what I imagine the Jews felt in the times of Hitler because you don’t know what is going to happen to you or where they will take you. When the immigration officials come they are almost like devils, and no one wants to ask about their case out of fear that they will be deported as a result. This is what they have told me happens: that if a girl asks any sort of question about her case she is then deported within days. It’s painful to see all of these cases. We are not criminals. I did not kill anyone; I am only a mother, one who wants to see her daughters grow, to raise them and shape them into respectable women. Please, help us immigrants — we are all brothers and sisters. What brought us here was family, our children. Blessed God, I give my case over to you. You are love; give us strength to overcome this suffering. I hope someone will help me.
*Not her real name
Translated by Katherine Guillen from a letter written to us in Spanish.
Editors note: We’ve attempted to follow up with Maria, but she no longer appears in the ICE Detainee Locator. We are hopeful that she has been released on bond.