CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Mexican woman who lived in Painesville before her deportation in 2017 filed suit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with her attorney, saying the agency’s actions in hers and other people’s cases “has led to a public, humanitarian, and bioethical crisis.”
Esperanza Pacheco Padilla said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Cleveland that ICE’s failed to respond to a public records request made by her and attorney David Malik.
Malik submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Nov. 14 seeking information about how the federal government handles “stay of deportation” petitions, as well as the corresponding $155 fee to file the petition. He said he has not yet received a response.
The request was made as part of a larger effort Malik and fellow attorney Anna Markovich undertook to return Pacheco Padilla back to the United States, Malik said.
She is one of many people removed from the U.S. after President Donald Trump took office. While Obama’s administration deported record amounts of people, immigration advocates have said current officials are more aggressively going after people suspected of being in the country illegally, regardless of whether they were charged or convicted with crimes.
Malik, a longtime Cleveland-area civil-rights attorney, said his client’s situation is not unique, as many who lived Northeast Ohio are being deported without receiving a rationale for why their stays of removal were denied.
He said he envisions the lawsuit as part of a broader effort to steer the national discourse about illegal immigration to one that involves bioethics; to address how immigrants who were either detained or deported, and their families, suffer medically and psychologically. Problems surrounding immigration cannot be solved without the medical community, Malik said.
“We’re trying to change the narrative, or remind people that we all have duties, a responsibility to take care of one another,” he said. “As corny as it sounds, it’s very important.”
Pacheco Padilla entered the U.S. “without inspection in March 1995” and eventually settled in Painesville, home to a large Hispanic population in Lake County, with her husband and four children, the lawsuit says. Deportation proceedings began against her in 2002 and an immigration judge ordered her removed in May 2003.
ICE’s Enforcement Operations and Removal Office in Detroit placed her deportation on hold in 2011, and in the subsequent years, she sought a way to stay in the U.S. legally, according to the lawsuit.
Officials renewed her stay of deportation between 2012 and 2017. However, on Nov. 20, 2017, she checked in with ICE at its Brooklyn Heights office as part of her supervision and was taken into custody, Malik said.
“That morning they basically said goodbye and had no indication anything was going to happen,” the attorney explained.
Her immigration attorney filed an emergency request to keep her in the U.S., but ICE deported her shortly thereafter. She never received any response to her request to stay in the U.S., according to the lawsuit.
Pacheco Padilla now lives in León, Mexico, while her children and husband remain in the U.S.
Malik’s public-records request sought information related to ICE’s policies and criteria when evaluating stays for removal, including ICE’s policies on suspicion necessary to make an arrest, the nationalities of those people deported and other information. They also wanted to know how the Detroit office uses the $155 fee as it relates to determining whether to grant a stay, according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiffs have a compelling and immediate need to access this information for urgent humanitarian reasons in the course of Ms. Pacheco Padilla case, including, but not limited to, considerations of the mental health of Ms. Pacheco Padilla’s four U.S. Citizen children,” the lawsuit says.
Malik and his client asked a judge to put its consideration of the matter on the fast track and to order ICE to turn over the records.
The case was put on hold by an order of Chief U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan within an hour of its filing, as government lawyers are on furlough because of a partial government shutdown.
A cleveland.com reporter emailed a spokesman for ICE’s office in Detroit on Wednesday and received an automated response that said all public affairs employees are not in the office because of the shutdown.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.
Click here to read the lawsuit on a mobile device.
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