SPECIAL REPORT – She Fights Cancer. His Son Struggles Not To Be Deported

It is something that happens very often: an immigrant is arrested for a traffic violation without authorization to be in the country, he ends up in detention and soon after, he is deported from the United States. In the case of Tania Romero, a Honduran mother of four who was recently arrested in Georgia, she could be deported in a few days.

But his case is not so common. Romero has been receiving treatment for stage IV mouth cancer that requires ongoing attention. In addition, he has a son, a PhD student at Yale University who is also in the country without legal permission, but who would not be left with his hands crossed.

“I grew up in this country. My mother is the main reason why I am in a school like Yale, ”said her son, Cristian Padilla Romero, in connection with the public campaign he has begun in order to obtain his mother's freedom.

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“She guided me, dealt with three jobs to support me,” said Padilla Romero, who was 7 when she arrived in the United States.

His campaign has been directed at his fellow students, professors, members of Congress and the general public. An online petition that began on October 29 has gathered more than 20,000 signatures. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $ 21,000. His mother's plight was the subject of an article in The Yale Daily News and social media posts about defending immigrants in the country.

Padilla Romero for now is exempt from deportation thanks to the Deferred Action program for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA for its acronym in English, which is a kind of temporary pardon for young people who were brought to the United States by children without documents .

Many of the beneficiaries of the program, known as “dreamers,” have used their temporary legal status and their skills for social networks and political organization to shed light on the actions of immigration authorities, which perhaps never before would have made the knowledge of the public.

In Yale, Padilla Romero's classmates have helped him create strategies, demanding the release of his mother through phone calls to members of Congress in Connecticut and Georgia and requests to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (or ICE, for its acronym in English), the agency that is trying to deport her.

“When something comes up, you leave everything,” said Joshua Aiken, a PhD student in African-American history and studies who prepared a script for when Yale students called ICE by phone. "Every day families are destroyed due to cruel and unethical deportation policies, so, as soon as Cristian told me what was happening to him, we had to mobilize."

Alicia Schmidt Camacho, head of the Yale chair of ethnicity, race and migration, said Padilla Romero, who is her student, had made the decision to train as an academic in studies in Central America to address the cause of the crisis they are facing passing unauthorized immigrant families.

"Now he is using his own difficulties to bring to light the devastating effect that deportation has on our communities," he said.

Tania Romero, 48, crossed the border illegally two decades ago and raised her four children in Atlanta, juggling her three jobs (sometimes all at the same time) as a maid, dishwasher and laundry assistant. After a few years, he got a full time job in the construction industry.

Apparently, ICE sent him a deportation order in 2008, because he did not appear at the hearings he had scheduled at the immigration court. But, thanks to a request covered by the Freedom of Information Act, her son obtained documents stating that apparently she had not received any of the three notices to appear in court. The United States Postal Service had returned the letters to ICE.

Although Romero knew that he was in the country illegally, his son maintains that she did not find out that he had a pending deportation order until he was apprehended in mid-August of this year, after he was arrested while driving in the Gwinnett County, Georgia.

In 2016, Romero received a diagnosis of stage IV mouth cancer. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy, which hurt his jaw and caused him to lose several teeth.

“In general, it is hard for him to eat, and we are concerned about his health while in detention, because he does not receive any special consideration,” Padilla Romero said.

He does not have a pressing need for special medications, he said, but he does need medical attention that he is not receiving.

ICE officials said they could not comment on the case. "Due to privacy restrictions, ICE cannot comment on the Tania Romero case," said Lindsay Williams, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The general position of the agency has been that unauthorized immigrants have no automatic right to stay in the country, even in the case of people who are receiving medical treatment that could save their lives. It has been a priority for President Trump to end illegal immigration and take action against those who live without permission in the United States.

Padilla Romero's campaign has begun to gain momentum. Julian Castro, Democratic presidential candidate, shared the petition on Twitter. And Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia, who represents the Padilla Romero district, is working closely with the family, her office said.

However, on October 30, Padilla Romero learned that ICE had contacted the Honduran authorities to obtain travel documents that would make it possible for her mother to be deported at the end of this week.

According to her son, she already missed a consultation with the oncologist. In Honduras, they will not give you the care you need.

“Sending my mother back to Honduras would be a death sentence. We will not stop working until released, ”said Padilla Romero.

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