A last-minute reprieve from federal immigration officials means an Englewood mother will get to spend the holidays with her family before being deported back to her native Morocco.
Fatiha Elgharib was scheduled to get on an airplane in Columbus today and leave the country, saying goodbye to her three children, including her 15-year-old son Sami with Down syndrome for whom she is the primary caregiver.
But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials contacted the family Friday giving them a 30-day stay of removal to allow the agency to conduct a thorough review of the case.
“We’re excited and hopeful that we’re getting to have Christmas with her at least,” said daughter Sara Hamdi, 27, on Monday.
Hamdi said they don’t know what sparked the 11th hour delay.
“They were very vague when they called,” she said.
Both U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have said they were looking into the case, but it’s unclear whether either was involved in the stay.
“We have stayed in contact with the daughter and family, and been in touch with ICE in recent weeks as well,” said Emmalee Kalmbach, spokesman for Portman, R-Ohio. “ICE notified us this morning that her removal was postponed to allow the agency to review the case further.”
Elgharib formerly had her removal pushed back after intervention by now-deceased U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.
The case has gained growing attention from across the country. The left-leaning immigration reform group America’s Voice is advocating for her case as an example of the immigration policy of President Donald Trump and the ICE Detroit field office, which oversees a region including Ohio.
“Our government…is making completely irresponsible decisions that harm American citizens, and using taxpayer dollars to do so,” said Lynn Tramonte, director of America’s Voice Ohio in a recent statement.
“Deporting Fatiha away from her children and family after two decades in the United States helps no one,” she said. “It is particularly cruel to think of how Sami will understand and deal with the news. As an American I am outraged and ashamed at these now-daily examples of government cruelty toward American families.”
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ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said Monday his agency “continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.
“However, as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
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Elgharib came to the country legally in 1995, but then over-stayed her visa. She has claimed the issue was a miscommunication, but ICE officials have repeatedly said her case was exhaustively reviewed and her deportation upheld. Sami and Elgharib’s 18-year-old daughter Wafaa were born here so they are U.S. citizens. Sara is here under the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program.
Sara said she hopes federal officials actually review her case and no new deportation date is scheduled.
“I’m really hoping someone will see where the mistake was,” she said. “We just want to live within our means and we want to do it the right way.”
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