Earlier this year, we told the story of Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez, a mother of three who owns a hair salon and is one of a growing number of undocumented immigrants speaking out about their cases in the hopes of stopping their deportations.
At a court hearing in April, Valenzuela Gonzalez's case was postponed until December 4, pending the outcome of a similar case before the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals case has since been decided, but Valenzuela Gonzalez's case has been postponed again.
The reason for the most recent delay has nothing to do with the specifics of her case. Instead, it was caused by the retirement of the immigration judge who was handling it. In court yesterday, Valenzuela Gonzalez's case was assigned to a new judge, Eileen Trujillo. Valenzuela Gonzalez has been ordered to appear before Trujillo on June 18, at which time the judge will set a final date for an individual hearing.
In short, the outcome of yesterday's court date means that Valenzuela Gonzalez and her children will have to wait several more months before they know if she'll be sent back to her native Mexico. "It means more sleepless nights and more stress," says her daughter, Tania, "but it also means more time to strategize and see if any good can come out of this."
Tania, who came to the U.S. with her family when she was nine, has been by her mom's side for her entire ordeal, which started in 2007, when Valenzuela Gonzalez paid a notario $7,500 to help her get a work permit. The notario's offer turned out to be a scam, and the paperwork Valenzuela Gonzalez filed simply alerted immigration authorities to her unlawful presence here. The authorities then started deportation proceedings against her.
But yesterday, Tania was not in the courtroom. Instead, she was forced to wait in the lobby because, unlike her younger sister who was born here, she is not a citizen.
The Denver immigration court recently moved from temporary offices to its permanent location on the third floor of a federal building at 1961 Stout Street. The security procedure at the new building allows U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants who have court dates to go through security right away, but it makes their undocumented family members wait in the lobby with stickers that say "Visitor" until everyone else has been admitted. Only then are they escorted upstairs to the courtrooms.
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By the time Tania would have been escorted up, her mom's court hearing was over.
More from our Immigration archive: "Jeanette Vizguerra, released from ICE custody, vows to keep fighting for herself and others."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org