Undocumented Mother of 3 Allowed to Stay in Philly … For Now

A mother of three has been granted extra time with her family after a Philadelphia immigration judge postponed a hearing some advocates feared would lead to deportation.

Araceli Rosendo Torres was calm as she and her husband entered court Thursday morning. With more than a dozen advocates by her side, the petite restaurant worker smiled and said God would protect her.

“I am confident everything will turn out in my favor,” she said moments before walking into her hearing. “My faith in the people helping me, and my children’s support, will get me through this.”

Torres has lived in the country undocumented for 18 years. She has three children who are all citizens. The family lives in South Philadelphia — both she and her husband are employed full-time.

The 42-year-old crossed from Mexico with her mother when she was in her early 20s. The elder woman was sick and alone, and the two couldn’t make ends meet in their native town.

Her mother died five years ago, and Torres said she was grateful for the life and care she was able to provide in Philadelphia. Now, she hopes to provide the same for her children.

“I want them to get ahead,” she said. “I could not have provided them with a good career path in Mexico. I think it would have been much harder.”

Torres petitioned for a cancellation of deportation seven years ago and has since attended regular check-ins with immigration officials. But Thursday’s hearing was fraught with anxiety as more immigrants are being deported and detained without due process.

“It’s not unusual for someone to go to their check-in and be picked up before even getting into the building,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of community group Juntos.

Almiron credits immigration Judge Steven A. Morley with postponing Torres’ hearing and reopening her request to stay in the county. Morley, one of five immigration judges in Philadelphia, has a reputation for being kind and patient during these proceedings, reportedly going out of his way to pronounce foreign names correctly and read every bit of evidence before coming to a decision.

For Torres, that evidence comes in the form of those who gathered outside 9th and Market streets at 7:30 a.m. Many of the people present for the small vigil didn’t speak Spanish and had never met Torres. They came to show solidarity with her plight and encourage Philadelphia to remain a so-called sanctuary city.

“Immigrant rights are workers rights,” said Naomi Zewe. “It’s a reflection of how all of our social problems are related to each other.”

The show of support is becoming more and more necessary as the Trump administration continues to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Almiron said.

Earlier this week, a mother and her son were deported from Berks County Residential Center to their native Honduras. They arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum from the bloodshed plaguing portions of Central America but instead were detained for more than one year. On Wednesday, the two were put on a flight back to Honduras, where lawyers fear the family will be killed by thugs they were trying to escape.

Torres is not facing the same fate. However, she has no family in Mexico. Her children have never lived outside the U.S. Leaving Philadelphia would mean leaving home and, along with it, the most important people in her life.

Thursday’s postponement will allow Torres and her legal representation to gather enough evidence to prove that she belongs in the U.S., Almiron said.

“It’s a good day for us to celebrate,” she said. “We see no reason for her to leave. This is her home. She has decided this is her home and we have all decided this is her home.”

Torres’ next court date is June 26.

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