Cristian Padilla Romero is an undocumented doctoral student at Yale University and like many young undocumented folks growing up, his path to the Ivy League school was paved by the hard work of his mother. Now, she’s fighting for her life in an immigration detention center.
Tania Romero survived stage 4 oral cancer in 2017 and since mid-August, she has been detained at Irwin County Detention Center, a private, for-profit detention facility 190 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia. At Irwin County Detention Center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has denied her parole to see her oncologist and an immigration judge has rejected to re-open her case.
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Now, Cristian is fighting to help his mother after she’s devoted her life to him and his three sisters. He’s doing what no son or daughter should have to deal with.
“We fear that her physical health is declining at an alarming rate. And if she is deported to Honduras, my mother would certainly face a decline in health, if not death,” he wrote in a petition on the website Mijente. “We urge ICE to be humane and release my mother to fight her case outside of detention and so she can fully recover from a long battle against cancer.”
Tania finished sixth grade in Honduras which was considered a great feat for a campesina and in the 2000s she and her husband and children moved to Atlanta. She’s worked as a housekeeper, restaurant dishwasher, and construction worker and she pushed for her children to succeed, propelling Cristian to attend a prestigious college.
Seeing his mother living in such inhumane conditions and facing the threat of deportation, Cristian is asking for the community to reach out to ICE Director Cesar Ciprian to support his mother’s fight. People can also donate toward her medical care and legal fees.
Cristian shares that she’s had no medical follow-ups for her cancer and she’s now been informed that she has a serious vitamin B12 deficiency placing her in an even more fragile state that would only worsen if she were to go back to her home country. “There is simply no safety net for patients in Honduras in the public hospital system. Since 2015, hundreds of patients have died in emergency rooms awaiting a bed and proper treatment, others,” he wrote.
Yesterday, Cristian posted an update in a press release stating that ICE requested travel documents from the Honduran consulate for his mom indicating she’s likely to be deported by the end of the week. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone spoke with Azadeh Shahshahani, former National Security and Immigrants’ Rights Project Director for the ACLU of Georgia, who called the Irwin County Detention Center “a horrendous place and one of the worst immigration detention centers in the U.S.” In a report Shahshahani co-authored in 2017 on George detention centers, they found several human rights violations at the Irwin center including sexual abuse allegations that went ignored, inaccessible medical care even for pregnant women, and spoiled food.
Shahshahani shared the story of immigrants’ rights leader Eduardo Samaniego, who had been detained at Irwin and wasn’t provided mental healthcare and remained on suicide watch for a couple of weeks before being deported.
Immigrant advocacy group Project South found “the lack of adequate access to medical care is alarming” with wait times to see the medical staff ranging from two days to two weeks and complaints regarding health remain ignored. They are asking that the Irwin center be shut down because of “extensive human rights violations.”
In light of these conditions and his mom’s worsening health, Cristian is asking for ICE to act humanely and let her fight her case outside of the detention center, stating he believes in the power “of human decency to create consensus.“
“Will my mother’s needless detention in a cold, inhospitable place grow to overshadow the good she has accomplished by raising me to take advantage of the singular promise this country has so often heralded to the world?” he wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The petition provides a script for people to call or email ICE Director Cesar Ciprian along with his contact information.
On Nov. 7 it was announced that ICE has decided to move forward with her deportation despite her declining health. The family has been given 24 hours to respond according to Cristian in an email to HipLatina, and they are now asking that those supporting Tania reach out to representatives in Georgia to urge them to stop ICE from deporting Tania. They are asking for humanitarian parole for her and that she stay in the U.S. for the duration of her legal process. “We will never give up and we will never stop fighting,” Cristian said.
Senator Johnny Isakson: (202) 224-3643 (DC Office) | (770) 661-0999 (GA Office)
Senator David Perdue: (202) 224-3521 (DC Office) | (404) 865-0087 (GA Office)
Congresswoman Lucy McBath: (202) 225-4501 (DC Office) | (470) 773-6330 (GA Office)