Blanca Medina came to the United States to escape sexual abuse after suffering five rapes in her homeland of El Salvador, according to her lawyer Matthew Muller. But even after Medina told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that she and her four-year-old daughter Alejandra would face severe harm if deported, the agency has continued with deportation proceedings, Muller says.
Medina's forced removal is scheduled just weeks after the Obama administration vowed Friday to halt deportations and begin granting work permits to some young undocumented immigrants, as part of a policy shift which prioritizes criminal immigrants over non-criminals.
But in the eyes of ICE, Medina is high-priority.
"In June 2006, when Ms. Medina failed to appear for her scheduled immigration hearing in Harlingen, Texas, she was ordered deported in absentia," ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. Kice also wrote that in 2011, five years after her missed immigration hearing, Medina was arrested by ICE's Fugitive Operations team. A subsequent request from Medina's lawyer to reopen her request for asylum was denied, Kice confirmed.
"ICE is focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement which prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives, such as Ms. Medina, who have failed to comply with final orders of removal issued by the nation's immigration courts," Kice wrote.
Muller says his client didn't show up for her court date because of psychological trauma caused by the multiple rapes, which he believes to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Muller, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a Harvard Law graduate, says he's represented hundreds of undocumented immigrants, but that in this case, he ran out of options to help his client and hoped public outrage would help the agency change its decision. Out of desperation, he started an online petition at Change.Org and a website called Alejandra's Wish.
Conflicting laws have put Medina's case in a legal tangle: U.S. law says that foreigners will not be deported back to countries where they face persecution or torture. However, because Medina failed to file a motion to open her case within 180 days after her missed court date, she "has no means of having her case heard under current law," according to Muller in his petition.
"She's entirely at the mercy of the immigration agency right now," he wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
From Muller's Change.org petition:
ICE used a strange procedural rule to assert that it simply did not have to listen. Under ICE rules, it is free to ignore even conclusive proof that a person would suffer slow death by torture if deported. This "willful blindness" policy could be ended through simple procedural changes by the Department of Homeland Security.
The loophole, Muller says, means the mother must return to a country that she is terrified of, and with her young daughter.
"Blanca fears for her life -- and Alejandra's -- if they have to go to El Salvador. None of the men who raped her have been arrested, including her stalker, and she's terrified of what they'll do if she's sent back to El Salvador. But ICE is choosing to ignore this and other evidence," a Wednesday Change.org email read. The petition, as of publishing, has nearly 115,000 signatures.
"Should the penalty for failing to appear at an immigration proceedings potentially be persecution or torture?" Muller asked. "It should not. Even when someone had no good reason for missing court, the punishment should fit the crime."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Deportation is a hot button issue around the world. Take a look:
Estrella Manuel, 2, holds an American flag in her mouth during a news conference in Miami Wednesday, June 17, 2009. Roughly 150 children are suing President Barack Obama to halt the deportations of their parents until Congress overhauls U.S. immigration laws. The U.S.-born children say their constitutional rights are being violated because they, too, will likely have to leave the country if their parents are forced to leave. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Memorial dedicated to the children of the Paris Vel D'Hiv round-up
French former President Jacques Chirac looks at photographs of victims, on January 27, 2011 in Orleans, central France, during the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to the children of the Paris Vel D'Hiv round-up, as part of a worldwide souvenir day. On July 16 and 17, 1942, some 13,000 Jews were detained and taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver cycling stadium near the Eiffel Tower, where they spent a week in appalling conditions, before being deported to Nazi concentration camps. AFP PHOTO/ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/GettyImages)
Deportations From Greece
Migrants on a police bus in central Athens, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. Greek police say officers have begun an operation to arrest and deport illegal migrants from the center of the capital and along the country
Flying Kites In Memory Of Orphans Deported To Treblinka
Members of the Israeli youth movement HaMachanot HaOlim fly kites in memory of Janusz Korczak on August 5, 2012 during an event marking 70 years since the deportation to Treblinka of Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children of their orphanage, from the Warsaw Ghetto at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. On August 5, 1942, the Nazis rounded up Korczak, Wilczynska and the 200 children of the orphanage. He and Stefa never abandoned the children, even to the very end. Korczak, Wilczynska and the children were sent to Treblinka, where they were all murdered. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/GettyImages)
Hamas leader holds a portrait of arrested Islamist leader
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya holds a portrait of Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, during a protest in Gaza City on July 5, 2011, after the controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader was arrested in London for entering the country despite a government ban and now faces deportation from Britain. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
Remembering Deportation Of Chechens
A woman holds a poster showing President Putin's portrait drawn as a razor wire during anti-Putin rally in Moscow, 23 February 2005, during Democtraic Union party's protest action for the 61th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Chechens to Siberia and Kazakhstan. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV. (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/GettyImages)
Suspected FARC Member Deported From Ecuador
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Iraqi and Iranians protest in the Iraqi city of Baquba
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People place flowers in Vilnius honoring memory of people deported by Soviet forces
People place flowers in Vilnius on June 14, 2011 on a cattle wagon used to deport people from Lithuania to Siberia on June 14, 1941. The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on June 14 honoured the memory of tens of thousands of their citizens deported by Soviet forces exactly 70 years ago during World War II. In nationwide commemorations that only became possible after Soviet rule ended in 1991, leaders said the 43,000 victims of June 14, 1941 must never be forgotten. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Remembering The Mass Deportations From The Warsaw Ghetto
People attach colourful ribbons with the names of Jewish children on the fence of a former Jewish orphanage during ceremonies in Warsaw on July 22, 2012 marking the 70th anniversary of the start of Nazi Germany's mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the death camp of Treblinka. AFP PHOTO / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/GettyImages)
Members of the English Defence League
Members of the English Defence League (EDL) chant holding placards calling for the deportation of radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada at opposing Unite Against Facism protesters as they gather outside the Home Office in central London on April 17, 2012. British authorities on April 17 arrested Abu Qatada, who is accused of ties to late Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, as they resumed efforts to deport him to Jordan. The UK government has been trying to extradite the 51-year-old Jordanian since 2005 arguing that he is a threat to national security, but British and European courts have repeatedly thwarted its efforts on human rights grounds. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese police excort a group of suspects deported from Indonesia
Chinese police excort a group of suspects (in black hoods) deported from Indonesia upon their arrival at the airport in Beijing on June 11, 2011. Indonesia deported 76 Chinese nationals who were among hundreds rounded up across Asia in connection with an alleged massive online fraud. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A boy born in Israel to a foreign worker
A boy born in Israel to a foreign worker, holds a letter in Hebrew addressed to Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu asking him not to be deported during a protest against a possible deportation of their families from Israel outside Prime Minister Netanyahu's residency in Jerusalem on February 21, 2012 organized by the NGO Israeli Children. Under an August 2010 cabinet decision, foreign workers with children could obtain residency rights if the child had come here before age 13, lived here at least five years, was either in school or about to enter first grade, and spoke Hebrew fluently, on condition that the parents initially entered Israel legally. Last week the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) began informing foreign workers and their children whether they have the right to stay in Israel or will face deportation in the next month. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, addresses a gathering of Indonesian immigrants at the Reformed Church of Highland Park Friday, April 6, 2012, in Highland Park, N.J. The church has granted sanctuary to a number of Indonesian Christian immigrants with final orders of deportation. Holt was speaking in favor of a bill by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, to try and reopen their cases. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Supreme Court considers SB1070
Tuulia Lowe protests against SB1070 and immigration deportations Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in San Francisco. Supreme Court justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they are ready to allow Arizona to enforce part of a controversial state law requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the country illegally. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
South Sudanese Refugee Deported From Israel
South Sudanese refugee Samuel Akue 30, carries his suitcases on June 11, 2012, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv, as he prepares for his deportation by Israeli authorities. Israeli authorities rounded up dozens of migrants slated for deportation, most of them Africans from South Sudan, as the government weighs tough penalties against Israelis who help illegal aliens. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
President Obama Speaks On Homeland Security's Announcement About Deportations
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: Members of CASA de Maryland gather in front of the White House to celebrate the Obama Administration's announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama said the administration will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. when they were at a young age. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Immigration Rights Activists Protest Possible Deportation Of Bangladeshi Student
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Honduran migrants deported from the United States
Honduran migrants deported from the United States walk on a tarmac of Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa upon their arrival on December 23, 2011. The 134 migrants are part of the 40.000 Hondurans, including men, women and children, that have been deported from the US this year. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Drug trafficker Hector Buitriago
Colombian police custody Colombian drug trafficker Hector Buitriago, aka Martin Llanos, upon his arrival at the antinarcotics police air base after his deportation from Venezuela, in Bogota on February 9, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Luis Acosta (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Immigrants and working families march to stop deportations on May Day
Immigrants and working families march to demand legalization for all immigrants and to stop deportations and the attacks on workers in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 2011. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
126 Guatemalans Arrive Back Home
Some of 126 deported Guatemalans wait for his turn to be registered by migration authorities upon arrival at the Air Force base in Guatemala City from the US Luisiana state on July 26, 2012. The United States deported 23,136 Guatemalans between January and July, a historical record that exceeds 28.3 % expulsions registered during the same period last year, according to records of the General Directorate of Migration of Guatemala. JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/GettyImages
Berlin Marks 70th Anniversary Of Jewish Deportations
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Immigrant Mother Of American Children Faces Deportation
DENVER, CO - MAY 23: Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra loads her children into her car after a meeting at the Mexican consulate in her fight against deportation hearings on May 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. She is scheduled for a final hearing July 13 at Denver's Federal Courthouse. Just one of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, Vizguerra is a small business owner of a janitorial service as well as an community organizer for immigration rights. She first came to Colorado from Mexico City with her husband 14 years before, and they now have three American-born children. Two years ago she was stopped by a traffic policemen for driving with expired tags and was taken to jail when she could not prove she was in the country legally. Vizguerra has been out on bail during lengthy court proceedings, but now faces the real possibility that she will be deported back to Mexico and separated from her family in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Romanian Roma victim of deportation during World War II
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MIHAELA RODINA Romanian Roma victim of deportation during World War II, Marin Safta, 89, holds an old picture of him with his wife as he recounts on January 23, 2012 the widely forgotten tragedy in Bucharest. The deportation of thousands of Roma by Romanian marshal Ion Antonescu is an indelible stigma for the victims 70 years on, survivors and analysts say. Holocaust victims are commemorated across the world on January 27, declared an International Day of Rememberance. In May 1942, Romania's Antonescu ordered the deportation of 'nomad, idle and criminal Gypsies' (Roma) in order to 'cleanse villages and cities of poor or dangerous people.' Some 25,000 Roma, out of a total of 208,000 registered, were deported to Transdniestr, a formerly Soviet region that was at the time controlled by the Romanian pro-Nazi authorities. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)