OVERLAND, MO. – She is behind bars and facing deportation after being in the United States illegally for some 20-years with very few issues. Now, the Overland wife and mother of three is speaking publicly for the first time since she was suddenly arrested this past Tuesday.
“I’m really, really mad because I`m missing my family and my husband,” said Ilsa Guzman-Fajardo, 48, talking with us from the Pulaski County Detention Center in southern Illinois.
Ilsa is jailed there facing deportation back to her native country of Honduras. She spoke with us by phone because the jail won`t let cameras inside. Her attorney, Evita Tolu, was present for our conversation.
“I’m waiting for something good, I’m so really, really scared,” explained Ilsa.
Ilsa doesn’t want to leave. She’s been in the St. Louis area for years and calls it home. She has three children and married last year. Her now 18-year-old son was born in America.
Ilsa came across at the San Ysidro checkpoint in California back in 1999. Tolu says Ilsa applied for asylum and also what`s called temporary protective status so she could stay in the U.S. But a deportation order was filed against her in January of 2000 after she didn`t show up for a court hearing.
Tolu says she didn`t show up because she was never given a date, place and time for the hearing from authorities. Evita thinks that should make her deportation order invalid. She has filed court documents trying to make that argument.
“This is not the case of a criminal. This is a good citizen, mother, hard worker, wonderful wife, and an asset to our community. And that`s why we need to fight for Ilsa`s rights,” explained Tolu. She went on to explain that after the deportation order there was nothing Ilsa could do to try and stay in the U.S. legally.
Ilsa`s world turned upside down when she went to an appointment at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ‘ICE’ office downtown at the Robert A. Young federal building last Tuesday morning. Tolu says Ilsa had been checking in regularly with authorities for several years, so they weren`t concerned about going to the ‘ICE’ office. But that all changed quickly.
Ilsa explained, “He tell my lawyer, he said, wait a minute, I need to talk to Ilsa first. Let me go Ilsa first and then I talk to you. When I go in, I never back outside. They stay me inside. They put me in the jail inside. They`re taking my stuff and everything. I asked him what happened, why you arresting me?”
Ilsa has been in custody ever since.
She went from the ‘ICE’ office downtown to the Montgomery County, Missouri Jail back to the ‘ICE’ office and then to the Pulaski County Detention Center.
“I`m living here for almost 20 years. My record is clean, I never had problems, never problem in my life in here United States. I need to stay here, my husband is here, my son is here, my son is born United States,” said an emotional Ilsa.
She continued, “I don`t want to go back my country because you know my country so danger why you put me in my country. Why are you sending me to my country? I need to stay here, please.”
Tolu feels Ilsa`s emotional pain. She has practiced immigration law in St. Louis for 20 years after legally immigrating from Russia and graduating from St. Louis University law school. She has strong views when it comes to immigration.
“I respect immigration laws. I respect strong borders. I want the United States to have border security and the wall. And I want all illegal criminal immigrants out of our country,” explained Tolu.
But Evita says Ilsa is not a criminal and deserves a chance to stay in the U.S. Ilsa is making this plea.
“Give me one chance to stay here. I`m good person, only I don`t have paper that`s it. But my record is clean, never a problem, never.”
Tolu says she has no definitive deportation date for Ilsa and her appeals could go on for some time. Eventually, Tolu says the case could go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or even the U.S. Supreme Court. Tolu says the whole court process could take two to three years.
An ‘ICE’ spokesperson has told us this is not about emotion for them. Instead, it`s about enforcing the judge`s deportation order especially since Ilsa`s American born child is now 18-years-old and no longer a minor.