A Las Vegas valley mother was released from custody after she was detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Cecilia Gomez-Nolasco issued a statement Monday afternoon in Spanish, which was then read in English by her son.
On the morning of March 27, before I left the USCIS office, I kissed by two younger sons goodbye and they wished me good luck. They knew what this day meant for us. I was on my way to an interview for my permanent residency. This day was going to change our lives forever. Unfortunately, it took a turn for the worst. I arrived at USCIS full of hope and positive expectation. My oldest son had flown in from Wesleyan College in Connecticut to attend the interview with me. For more than 20 years, I had been waiting for this day, and the opportunity to become a permanent resident and the opportunity to be present at my son’s graduation and ensure that my two younger sons finish their schooling. What happened next was nothing short of traumatic, both for me, my children and my entire family. When I was called up for what I believed was my interview, I was met by ICE agents, and in less than 10 minutes, I was in ICE custody, and taken away without the chance to say goodbye to my son waiting on the other side of the door. Then, while I was being processed for deportation, I was assaulted by an ICE agent and injured. I was asked to sign a document. However, when I asked that I be given an opportunity to read that document before signing, the agent became very angry. He then forcefully prevented me from reading the document and hurt me. It was then when I was assaulted, that I felt especially powerless. I was humiliated, mocked and stripped of my humanity. While I was detained, I asked multiple times at different detention centers for someone to document my injuries but was repeatedly refused. They think that just because we are immigrants, they can do whatever they want with us. While I was detained, I saw so much injustice. If not for the community, organizations and individuals that called for my release, I would not be here now. I would have been one of the millions who have been ripped apart from their families. Since my release, I have received calls and messages from individuals from all over the country wishing me well, sending me strength. This inspires me and motivates me to continue fighting, to become a permanent resident and remain together with my family. It also moves me to let them know that they are not alone.
Immigration officials denied the assault allegations leveled by the immigrant detained in Las Vegas last week.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a statement said the allegations of physical abuse and mistreatment alleged by Mexican national Cecilia Gomez-Nolasco "are patently false."
Gomez-Nolasco's party "directly refuted" ICE's claims that the assault allegations were false.
ICE released a statement Monday afternoon as well.
Ms. Gomez-Nolasco, a citizen of Mexico illegally living in the United States, was ordered removed by an immigration judge in August 1998. Subject to that order, she was arrested and taken into custody March 27 by deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As the agency tried to effect her removal, it received notification that a motion to reopen her case had been made with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Next steps in her immigration case are under review.
All allegations of physical abuse and mistreatment by ICE officers in this case are patently false. ICE is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody, and has a strict zero-tolerance policy for any abusive or inappropriate behavior by its employees. That said, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.
Gomez-Nolasco's family on Thursday told reporters an agent slammed her against a table, causing bruises along her side, when she reached to grab documents she wanted to read before signing.
Ricardo Avelar-Gomez said his mother believed an appointment at the Las Vegas office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was meant for her to obtain her green card, but instead, she was detained.
Gomez-Nolasco was at a detention center in Arizona.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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