About nine months ago, Pangea took on representation of the mother and father to an eight-year-old US citizen girl. Both parents were detained in different Texas detention centers after fleeing politically-motivated persecutions in Guatemala, including beatings, threats of death, and a targeted shooting. Upon entry to the United States, they fell victim to trafficking, and witnessing a rape on the border. Pangea was successful in obtaining a low bond for the mother, reducing it from $7,500 to $1,500. Pangea quickly succeeded in obtaining her release. However, the father, Ricardo, was detained by the U.S. Marshals for over three months on account of his status as a material witness to a crime. Following his transfer to ICE in May 2014, and with the representation of Pangea attorneys, Ricardo received a positive determination in his reasonable fear interview. In addition, Pangea filed a U visa application on Ricardo's behalf. Despite his eligibility for withholding of removal, a U visa, and the many vigils and rallies held in his support by the San Francisco community, ICE continuously refused to allow Ricardo to reunite with his wife and daughter.
In September 2014, a Houston judge found that the well-documented beatings, threats, wrongful detention, and targeted shooting by the Guatemalan police was not enough for him to receive protection under U.S. law. Exhausted and extremely depressed as a result of nine months of detention, and against the advice of his attorneys, family and advocates, Ricardo decided not to appeal his case. This was a desperate, irrational decision that was the result of nine months of psychological anguish. As his advocates, we felt powerless when witnessing the devastating effects of detention on Ricardo, let alone the barriers to his legal representation. His mental health notably deteriorated month after month as was evident in our phone conversations. After surviving several months of wrongful detention by corrupt Guatemalan police officers, Ricardo was re-traumatized by his prolonged detention in a Texas detention center.
The destructive effects of detention were also evident on his eight-year-old daughter, who suffered from separation anxiety. In early October 2014, she and her mother went to Texas to say goodbye to Ricardo. The family started planning for an even longer separation, and for Ricardo’s living in hiding in the mountains of Central America. Shortly after their visit to Texas, ICE finally responded to Pangea's many requests to file a request for a prima facie determination in Ricardo’s U visa petition with USCIS, that resulted in a positive determination, pending further adjudication. At the last hour, a day before deportation, Pangea and the advocacy community, were able to secure Ricardo's release. Ricardo reunited with his wife and daughter on October 17, 2014 in San Francisco, California.