By Phineas Rueckert
A pregnant mother who was arrested by ICE outside Queens Family Court in April and experienced severe stomach problems in a New Jersey jail, won a temporary victory Tuesday after the Southern District Court of New York granted a stay on her deportation order.
Alma Centeno Santiago was transferred to an ICE facility in Louisiana from Bergen County Detention Center on Tuesday, and was scheduled to be deported Wednesday morning according to Melissa Chua, New York Legal Assistance Group’s Associate Director of Immigrant Protection. Her attorneys stepped in to prevent the deportation.
“A team of dedicated NYLAG lawyers and NSC Community Legal Defense lawyers filed an emergency request in Southern District Court of New York to prevent ICE from deporting Alma tomorrow morning after she was transferred to an ICE facility in Louisiana earlier today,” Chua said in a statement. “The Court this evening granted a temporary restraining order halting removal of Alma from the U.S. so as to give her an opportunity to fully assert her claims.”
Chua added that the Court will take the case back up next week. Centeno Santiago’s friend Jennifer Pacheco said she and Centeno Santiago’s family were “very grateful for this news.”
Centeno Santiago lives in Queens Village with her two children, ages 11 and 3, and her mother. Both children are U.S. citizens and Pacheco told the Eagle that the family was not sure how they would be able to get custody of the children if Centeno Santiago were deported.
As the Eagle previously reported, Centeno Santiago was arrested by ICE outside queens Family Court after an appearance for settle a partner dispute. She developed severe stomach problems during her detention at Bergen County Detention Facility, which was quarantined after at least six detainees were diagnosed with mumps
Advocates say ICE’s presence in and around courthouses endangers immigrants, who are less inclined to seek justice as victims or witnesses for fear of deportation.
Pablo Gutierrez of Telemundo first reported on Centeno Santiago’s arrest and detention and helped the Eagle contact with her friends and family earlier this month.
After Telemundo, the Eagle and the Daily News reported on the story, elected officials began to weigh in.
“This cruelty cannot stand. Alma Sofia Centeno Santiago must be released and reunited with her children immediately,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote in a tweet.
Chua, at the New York Legal Assistance Group, said her team would continue to fight for Centeno Santiago’s release.
“We will continue to fight for Alma’s right to be heard and her right to remain with her U.S. citizen children,” Chua said.