U.S. immigration officials last week (February 5) released a Salvadoran woman who claims she suffered seven seizures while being held in custody.
Susana Arévalo, 27, was detained a month ago by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of a series of controversial raids aimed at deporting undocumented families, many of whom have fled endemic violence in Central America.
Arévalo maintains she had seven epileptic seizures whilst detained at the Dilley family detention center, and that ICE officials refused to release her so that she and her six-year-old son, who has a learning disability, could continue medical treatment in Atlanta.
“They haven’t let me leave”
Whilst in detention, Arévalo told Democracy Now! in a telephone interview:“We’ve been here for more than 22 days, and the authorities have not given us any answers. I have my treatment in Atlanta, and my son also. I have an appointment January 27, and they haven’t let me leave so I can continue my outside treatment. My son also has his appointment. He has to begin therapy for neurological delays.”
Concerned that the mother-of-two was not receiving adequate medical attention for her condition, immigration advocates, attorneys and a doctor urged officials to release her.
An article in the San Antonio Express News reports that ICE have stated that custody decisions are considered on a case-by-case basis, and a spokesman from ICE told the newspaper that Arévalo was taking medication.
Arévalo fled El Salvador with her two young children to escape gang violence, joining her mother in Atlanta, Georgia.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ICE agents took the 27-year-old from her home on January 2. Arévalo was taken to an immigration center and notified that she was going to be deported.
Raids and deportations
“I got really worried because I am afraid for my life and that of my children if I am returned to El Salvador. My children had also gotten upset because they could see that I was visibly upset. I was so nervous and scared that I felt my blood pressure drop, I was crying and I couldn’t breathe. At that point, I felt dizzy and I suffered a seizure,” she told the Southern Poverty Law Center.
An article in the Texas Observer reports that the raids targeted 121 mothers and children who had outstanding deportation orders, and that according to immigration lawyers, most of the people detained have since been deported.
There has been a surge in the number of undocumented minors and families entering the U.S. in order to avoid widespread violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and parts of Mexico.
The Obama Administration has come under attack for carrying out the raids. The Washington Post reported that in January, some 100 Democrats signed a letter denouncing the Administration for its “inhumane” deportation of refugees fleeing violence in Central America.
According to the San Antonio Express News, Arévalo was taken to the Greyhound bus station in San Antonio last Friday (February 5), and was planning to take a flight back to Atlanta.
Before being liberated, Arévalo, along with six other women, wrote a letter to President Obama, calling on him to halt the raids and release them. They wrote: “We would like to ask you for our freedom from the unjust detention you have imposed on our families. Why did you choose us to make an example of to frighten other Central American families, with no regard for the suffering it causes us and our children?”