An attorney for an Englewood mother facing deportation after being in the U.S. for more than two decades said she has numerous clients facing similar situations since the change of presidential administrations.
“Under the Obama administration… someone like her was not a priority for removal,” said attorney Shahrzad P. Allen of her client Fatiha Elgharib. “She doesn’t have any criminal convictions. She has U.S. citizen children. She has been here for a long time. She is just here with her family taking care of her kids, especially the youngest who has special needs.”
Elgharib had feared that at a meeting today with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement she would be given a date when she would be deported after 22 years in the country and separated from her children, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome.
Allen was able to reschedule that meeting for Sept. 27, and plans to file a stay to delay proceedings further. Allen said she is still acquainting herself with Elgharib’s decade-long case to determine what legal remedies, if any, are available.
Wafaa Hamdi, Elgharib’s 18-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen and started an online petition to draw attention to her mother’s case, said her ultimate hope is “to keep my mom here.”
“We need her. Especially my brother, he needs the supervision 24/7. She’s the only one who can do that for him,” she said. “So we need her to be here. That’s all we ask is for them to say, ‘OK, she can stay at home.’ We don’t ask for anything else.”
Allen said she hears about several people a week facing renewed deportation fears under President Donald Trump. The new administration in February peeled back guidance that directed ICE agents to focus on violent criminals, people caught near the border or new arrivals.
“I have clients who have been reporting to ICE as required, they have done everything right, they are not fugitives, they are not running away from the law, they have citizen children and now they are being targeted for removal,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
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Elgharib and her family say her deportation order came after she missed an immigration court hearing and was ordered deported in absentia. But they claim they never received the notice to appear.
Elgharib, her husband and daughter came to the U.S. on a visa in 1995. They since had two more children, both of whom are U.S. citizens because they were born here. Her 15-year-old son has Down syndrome and other health problems, and Elgharib is his primary caregiver.
Her husband and oldest daughter both have jobs and pay taxes, they say.
Allen said if an immigrant is summoned to court and fails to appear, the court will often order them deported — “it happens all the time,” she said — but there are also usually ways to reopen the case.
The Elgharib family has pleaded with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to intervene. But such efforts had little impact in another local high-profile case.
Maribel Trujillo Diaz, a mother of four living in Fairfield, was deported back to Mexico in April even after Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, advocated on her behalf.
Like Elgharib, Diaz had been on ICE’s radar during the entire Obama administration, but was deported under Trump.
Immigration attorneys say there is no easy path for citizenship in many of these cases, and the laws are complex.
“Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time, and unless we have comprehensive immigration reform, we will continue to have these issues,” Allen said.