WASHINGTON D.C. — Maryora Nicole Urbina is an effusive 15-year-old in her freshman year at a Chicago, Illinois- area high school. She enjoys her science classes and dreams about becoming a pediatrician one day. But there’s something that sets Maryora apart from her classmates: She spent two months last year traveling to the United States from Honduras after a gang member tried to kill her.
When she arrived at the U.S. border, Maryora sought asylum, a form of humanitarian relief that allows certain immigrants to stay in the country permanently. But her asylum case was denied — and she may soon be deported back to the same horrific conditions from which she fled.
I almost died because of the violence in my country. I wanted to be safe in this country.
The Obama administration recently announced that it will begin a series of deportation raids to target Central American women and children who crossed the southern U.S. border over the past two years. Obama officials say these immigration operations are in the interest of public safety and border security.
“We stress that these operations are limited to those who were apprehended at the border after January 1, 2014, have been ordered removed by an immigration court, and have no pending appeal or pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws,” Sarah Rodriguez, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson, told ThinkProgress in an email.
Maryora is currently awaiting a court hearing in 2018 to appeal her case. In the meantime, she fits ICE’s criteria for potential deportation.
That’s why she joined her mother and her two younger sisters in the nation’s capital this week. They were part of a caravan of immigrant families who are calling on the Obama administration to halt its impending deportation raids.
“I’m afraid because they tried to kill me,” Maryora told ThinkProgress on Wednesday, in between visits with congressional lawmakers. “I don’t want to die, you know. I came by myself to be with my mom and I almost died because of the violence in my country. I wanted to be safe in this country, to be a better person.”
Since her arrival in the United States last year, Maryora has been the ultimate big sister to Diana, 12, and Valeria, 7. Both girls, who are U.S. citizens, understand what Maryora’s deportation could mean to their family. Diana would lose the person who teaches her about makeup and helps her with homework. For Valeria, it would mean the loss of a roommate, babysitter, and playmate.
Maryora’s mother, Tania, teared up at the thought of an immigration raid’s potential impact on her girls. She’s afraid that ICE officials will knock on her door unannounced, as they did to hundreds of immigrants during a similar immigration operation at the beginning of this year.
“We’re really scared now,” Tania told ThinkProgress through an interpreter. “We can’t even answer the door without thinking something might happen. I don’t even take my daughters to the park because we’re just so afraid that somebody might take us and separate us.”
Maryora and her family aren’t the only ones who are petrified of the impending raids. Previous raids have had a chilling effect on parents who have been too afraid of sending their children to school or too nervous to leave the house to go to work.
Obama’s Immigration Raids Are Turning Latino Communities Into Ghost TownsImmigration by CREDIT: Esther Yu Hsi Lee WHEATON, MD – Around the Christmas holiday, the small businesses in downtown…thinkprogress.orgLast week, Democratic lawmakers publicly criticized the Obama administration’s decision to initiate more raids. And during Wednesday’s press conference, Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) came down particularly hard on President Obama, arguing the country needs to do more to give asylum seekers a way to have their court cases adjudicated.
“Until people have an opportunity for real due process, it is wrong to target them for removal especially when the stakes are so high,” Lofgren said. “It’s not just that they’re leaving, it’s that they’re leaving to be killed.”
The Obama administration has come close to acknowledging that targeting Central American families for deportation could in fact be a death sentence for them.
It’s not just that they’re leaving, it’s that they’re leaving to be killed.
“Crime and violence are again the primary factors behind migration from these countries,” Jonathan T. Hiskey, an associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, said on a separate press conference call on Wednesday. “In sum, Central American refugees are fleeing the devil they know, no matter how menacing the devil that may await them on their journey or arrival to the U.S.”
Sliding up like she wanted to divulge a secret, Valeria told ThinkProgress she wanted to do something to help Maryora. “I’m going to share my papers with my sister because I really want her to stay here,” she said.
Maryora beamed with pride when she heard what Valeria said. But she also understands it isn’t nearly that easy to obtain a legal pathway to citizenship.
“We came here because in our countries there’s a lot of violence,” Maryora said. “We want to be with our families. We’re not criminals. We just want to be with our families and be safe.”