CASA Makes Last-Ditch Effort After ICE Denies Stay of Deportation on Liliana Cruz Mendez Case

Posted May 26, 2017 /

WASHINGTON D.C. (FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017) _ CASA sent this letter today to elected officials, other authorities and allies as a last-ditch effort to keep Liliana with her 4 and 10-year old U.S. citizen children after ICE denied a stay of deportation in her case.

May 26, 2017

VIA Certified Mail 7015 3010 0000 7744 2139
Attn:  Acting Director Thomas D. Homan
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC  20536

Re:  Request for Reconsideration of Denial of Stay of Removal for Liliana Cruz Mendez    (A 099-539-956)

Dear Acting Director Homan:

My name is Nicholas Katz and I am the Senior Manager of Legal Services at CASA.  I write today in reference to our request for a Stay of Removal for Liliana Cruz Mendez (A 099-539-956). This request was submitted immediately after Ms. Cruz Mendez was taken into custody by immigration officers at her routine check-in pursuant to her Order of Supervision (OSUP) last Thursday, May 18, 2017.  On Friday, May 26, 2017 our office was notified that Liliana’s request has been denied by the Field Office Director Russell Hott.

We write to urgently request that you reconsider Liliana’s case and grant her a stay of removal.

Ms. Cruz Mendez is a loving mother of two U.S. citizen children, Steven (age 10) and Danyca (age 4).  She is a valuable member of her community who has lived in the United States for more than a decade, after fleeing violence in El Salvador when she was 18.  Although Liliana does have a minor conviction for driving without a license in Virginia in 2014, she has been granted an official Pardon by the Governor of Virginia for that offense.  Liliana has no other criminal history and has been a model resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2006.

As Field Office Director Hott states in his letter denying Liliana’s Stay of Removal request “[s]uch decisions are made on a case by case basis, after considering the totality of the circumstances, both mitigating and aggravating factors, and must conform with ICE’s enforcement priorities, namely national security, public safety and border security.”  If that standard is to have any meaning, if you truly consider the totality of Liliana’s circumstances, it is clear that removing her from the United States and permanently separating her from her children and family, serves no purpose.

Liliana is not a threat to national security, public safety or border security.  She is a mother of two children, with no significant criminal record, who entered the United States more than a decade ago at an age where most children are still in high school.  She fled El Salvador after having a gun put to her head, seeking safety and a better life in the United States.  After being apprehended at the border, she was unable to navigate our complex immigration system and was ordered removed in absentia.  Although she does not have an obvious path to immediate normalization of her status, her husband is currently in the process of pursuing a green card and it is possible that Liliana could adjust her status through that process, but for her outstanding removal order.  Executing Liliana’s removal order now will not contribute to securing our border or advance any of ICE’s enforcement priorities.

As our nation has grappled with difficult questions about immigration policy for decades, Liliana has been anxiously awaiting some hope for her situation.  She would have benefitted from immigration reform legislation passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013.  She is a DREAMer, who would have benefitted from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) but unfortunately she arrived when she was a high school senior instead of when she was a sophomore.  Finally, Liliana thought that she would be able to gain some security through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) prosecutorial discretion process, but that process also stalled.  Time and again, as policy makers and experts have attempted to reform our nation’s immigration system, Liliana stood out as an example of exactly who we want to keep in this great country – not who we want to force out.

As you consider Liliana’s request for a favorable exercise of your discretion, we ask that you consider not only the terrible consequences Liliana’s removal would have on her personally, but also the tragic consequences for her U.S. citizen children.  As we outline in her request for a Stay of Removal, Liliana’s son Steven suffers from asthma and a learning disability, which would be difficult to treat in El Salvador.  Depriving Steven of the support of his mother would also deal him serious emotional harm and place an extreme burden on the remaining family.  In addition, her four-year-old daughter Danyca is at a crucial stage in her development and would suffer extreme hardship if she were to be permanently separated from her mother.

Liliana has received amazing support from her community since being taken into custody.  Community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials and the media have all rallied to her cause, asking that you use your discretion to allow Liliana to remain with her family.

Although we understand that it is your job to enforce our immigration laws, those laws and regulations grant you significant discretion to decide when to exercise your power to separate someone like Liliana from her family.  In analyzing “both the mitigating and aggravating factors” in Liliana’s request, we respectfully submit that the mitigating factors, such as her strong ties to the United States, young U.S. citizen children, deep community support, lack of significant criminal history and potential for future relief greatly outweigh the only “aggravating” factor in her case – her prior order of removal, issued in absentia when she was still a child.

Liliana has twice before been the beneficiary of your positive discretion, and we ask that you once again evaluate the whole of her case, including the significant humanitarian factors that weigh in favor of allowing her to remain with her family, and grant her request for a Stay of Removal.

Thank you for your consideration.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at this email address or by phone at 646-483-7201 if there is anything you need.


Nicholas Katz
Senior Manager of Legal Services

Enclosure (1):  Stay Application and Decision Letter A099 539 956