A 26-year-old undocumented mother with a brain tumor is now awaiting her third bond hearing.
Sara Beltran-Hernandez, who came to the U.S. to seek asylum from El Salvador, collapsed earlier last month while she was in detention at Prairieland Detention Center. She had been held in the center 15 months. Beltran-Hernandez was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumor and moved to a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. But last week, she was removed and put back into detention.
ICE claims they are keeping Beltran-Hernandez, who has two children, under observation and that she’s receiving 24-hour care.
Fatma E. Marouf, Beltran-Hernandez’s attorney and director of the Immigrants Rights Clinic at Texas A&M University, said in a press call that her client “has very severe pain in her head, numbness in her face and has difficulty moving around.”
Marouf said that her team is “very concerned that the detention center cannot monitor [Sara] in the manner she requires” and that they’ve continually failed to provide her with an interpreter when she’s gone in to see a medical professional.
During an appointment with her neurologist on Monday, Beltran-Hernandez was transferred in wrist, waist and ankle shackles and the detention center didn’t provide an interpreter. Her neurologist demanded she have one and they had to wait 45 minutes before one was provided.
Beltran-Hernandez has a large pituitary macroadenoma tumor, which doctors told Marouf “could continue to grow” and “needs close monitoring and regular MRIs.”
“Her condition is not being controlled and we’re concerned detention is exacerbating her condition. ... She does not have access to specialists,” Marouf said.
The tumor is not currently life-threatening but Marouf indicated that “just because she doesn’t surgery right now doesn’t mean she wont need it in the near future ... more urgent intervention may be necessary and it may not be detected in the detention center.”
Due to this material change in Beltran-Hernandez’s condition, an emergency bond hearing has been set for Thursday at 11 a.m. CT in Dallas.
Last week, Amnesty International USA launched a campaign urging ICE to release Beltran-Hernandez. The campaign led to “thousands of people” calling and emailing Dallas police to demand her release and provide her with the health care she needs, according to Eric Ferraro, an Amnesty International USA spokesman.
“Phone lines at ICE were shut down and redirected because of the call volume. ... People are outraged, as they should be. We are hopeful this case can be resolved so she can get the care she needs,” Ferrero said on a press call.
Beltran-Hernandez’s two previous bond hearings were in August 2016 and January 2017. The judge denied her bond the first time because he found her to be a flight risk, based on her saying that she wanted to work in this country. This decision was reversed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, but during the second bond hearing, the judge issued the same decision.
Marouf says Beltran-Hernandez is “not a flight risk” and that “there wasn’t really a lot of logic to explain that decision.”
“She’s in no shape to flee. No one has ever said she’s been a danger.”
Justin Mazzola, deputy director of research at Amnesty International USA, also agreed that Beltran-Hernandez “does not pose a public threat.”
“Because of her serious medical conditions, she can’t get the quality care she needs. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. She can’t go back to El Salvador, due to specific threats against her, and while she’s being held here, she’s being held under conditions that are only making her condition worse.”
Mazzola went on to say that “ICE has it within their discretion to release individuals” in positions like Beltran-Hernandez, but that “it’s not uncommon for asylum seekers to be held for a year or longer.
“Because they’re in detention, they don’t have materials they need to adequately represent themselves in the way they need to.”
In Beltran-Hernandez’s case, the alleged domestic violence she was subjected to by her children’s father in El Salvador is reason enough for her to be eligible for asylum.
A woman from Guatemala was able to argue a similar case before the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2014. Her landmark case, Matter of A-R-C-G- et al. (26 I&N Dec. 388 (B.I.A. 2014), set a precedent that other applicants who can show “the persecution they have or will face is on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group” are eligible for asylum.
Ferrero says that Beltran-Hernandez’s human rights are “being violated in ways that are shocking and outrageous.”
“She has been locked up for more than 450 days while her asylum claim is pending. This is not the way the U.S. should be treating people seeking asylum. While their claim is being processed, their human rights should be protected.”
This piece will be updated after Thursday’s bond hearing.