Queens Village mom remains in ICE limbo after judge suspends hearing

Courtesy of NYLAG

The deportation of a pregnant mother of two from Queens Village remains on hold.

Alma Centeno-Santiago, 34, continues to be detained in Louisiana by ICE after her hearing in the Southern District Court in New York was postponed Tuesday.

“The judge issued a continuance of the Temporary Restraining Order preventing ICE from deporting her until the next hearing on July 23,” New York Legal Assistance Group Alma Director of Immigrant Protection Jodi Ziesemer, Esq. said. “Alma remains detained in Louisiana, away from her NYLAG legal team and her family. This includes her two U.S. citizen children, ages 3 and 11, who miss her terribly. We have asked for Alma to be transferred back to the East Coast so she can be near her family, but the government has said it is ICE’s decision, yet ICE refuses to answer our calls.”

Centeno-Santiago’s legal team filed an emergency request in the Southern District Court of New York to prevent her deportation and the court granted a temporary restraining order halting her removal from the United States.

“Yesterday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other elected officials visited CBP facilities and noted the horrid conditions that immigrants are kept in. Alma’s case highlight similar abuses,” Ziesemer said. “She is experiencing a medically difficult pregnancy in ICE custody. She advocated for herself and her unborn child because ICE was denying her proper medical care. However, instead of providing her proper medical care, ICE isolated Alma, continued to deny her basic care, and was indifferent to her suffering. Ocasio-Cortez also reported that the women and children that alleged these horrid conditions also fear retaliation from ICE. We believe this gives more credence to Alma’s claim that ICE moved to deport her to keep her from discussing the detention conditions.”

The ruling will give Centeno-Santiago an opportunity to fully assert her claims when the court conducts further proceeding next week.

Centeno-Santiago’s legal odyssey began in April when she was arrested by ICE agents while appearing at a Queens Family Court hearing in Jamaica over the custody of her children with the children’s father. Centeno-Santiago held at the Bergen County Detention Facility in New Jersey for nearly three months.

An immigration judge ordered Centeno-Santiago to be deported last December after she failed to appear for immigration court proceedings. Ziesemer argued that her client was not properly notified of her scheduled court appearances.

Centeno-Santiago fled Guatemala at the age of 18, and had a full-time job at a restaurant in Jamaica until ICE agents arrested her.

“Support is increasing and clamoring for ICE to release Alma, including a #FreeAlma hashtag on social media,” Ziesemer said. “NYLAG and Alma’s family are also extremely grateful to Congressman Gregory Meeks, newly elected Queens DA Tiffany Cabán, and Senator Gillibrand for their support in this case.”

Cabán, it should be noted, is not the newly elected Queens DA, but she is the apparent winner of the Democratic primary held June 25.

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