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Date: August 17, 2016
Groundswell of Outrage Surges In Reaction to Case of Incarcerated Immigrant Grandmother
Groups Demand the Immediate Release of Domestic Violence Survivor from California For-Profit Immigration Jail
Los Angeles—Over 100 domestic violence, faith, immigrant, and civil rights organizations called upon Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately release Xochitl Hernandez from the for-profit immigration jail she has been held in since February.
Xochitl has five U.S. citizen children and four grandchildren and has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. She is imprisoned and in deportation proceedings because ICE agents subjected her to an interview during a Los Angeles Police Department criminal raid for which she was never a target. The ostensible foundation for her detention is a single lifting conviction from over a decade ago and a baseless allegation of gang affiliation.
“This case demonstrates the dangerous way President Obama’s absurd ‘felons not families’ rhetoric has been interpreted by ICE agents on the ground,” said Emi MacLean, attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “A prior conviction does not make someone deserving of permanent banishment. It is past time for the calls for criminal justice reform to be heard in the halls of U.S. immigration agencies.”
At an immigration hearing where Xochitl had no lawyer, a police officer testified he saw Xochitl near gang members. The officer noted that she lived in an area frequented by gangs. As a result of this attenuated and unsupported testimony, a judge slammed Xochitl with a $60,000 bond. Now ICE says she falls into a top deportation priority category because of demonstrable profiling and entirely false claims of gang affiliation.
“This is an illustrative case of how gang profiling criminalizes people based on where they live and who they know rather than what they do,” said Ana Muñiz, Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine. “Both ICE and LAPD should recognize Xochitl’s detention as reprehensible, but neither has acted to compel her release.”
“Immigration detention attacks human dignity and re-traumatizes those who have already survived terrible violence,” said Victoria Mena of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). “Xochitl is the perfect example of why the for-profit Adelanto immigration detention center must be shut down.”
A domestic violence survivor, Xochitl is awaiting a decision on a U visa, a form of immigration relief available for survivors of certain crimes.
“Xochitl Hernandez is a domestic violence and trauma survivor who repeatedly sought protection from the Los Angeles police in the face of her estranged husband’s violence,” said Jordan Cunnings, Xochitl’s lawyer at Public Counsel. “Instead of being granted protection, she is facing long-term imprisonment with severe psychological consequences for her and her family.”
“Immigrant survivors of violence like Xochitl should be given support and resources to help them heal. Seeking to detain and deport her is incredibly unjust,” said Hyejin Shim of Survived and Punished. “Criminalizing her highlights the ways that the criminal and immigration enforcement systems often further traumatize and harm survivors of violence and their communities.”