A stay entered by the Board of Immigration Appeals last week will allow Yesica, a 21-year old woman who was separated from her family three years ago by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to stay in the United States pending further proceedings before the Board.  She is being held in a detention center in Texas.

Yesica’s mother, Ana, and Yesica’s two brothers live in a space provided by the Lake Street Church in Evanston, and they have been supported by multiple faith communities and immigrant rights organizations.

Four years ago the MS-13 gang killed Ana’s husband in their native El Salvador, and she fled with her children to the United States to escape additional violence. The family was detained at the border, and Yesica, who was 19 at the time, was separated from her mother and brothers and deported to El Salvador.

Ana and her two sons, then 7 and 15, were allowed to stay and apply for asylum. Their asylum case is in process in the Chicago Immigration Court and has a 2020 call date.

After being deported to El Salvador in 2015, Yesica said she was stalked and sexually assaulted by someone associated with the MS-13 gang. Fearing for her life, she fled to the United States. When she attempted to enter the United States for the second time, she was detained and ordered deported. Her attorney filed a motion to reconsider the deportation order on April 12.

Yesica faced deportation last week, but the Board of Immigration Appeals entered a stay that is effective until the Board rules on her motion to reconsider. 

A Petition for Review is also pending before a three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit, and a motion for a stay was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesica’s attorney has also asked to change the detention location to Chicago so Yesica can be near her family.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has repeatedly communicated with ICE on Yesica’s behalf, said Shanti Elliott, a Board Member of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Steering Committee member of Chicago Women Take Action, and member of the Peace and Justice Committee at Lake Street Church of Evanston, in a prepared statement.

Advocates have mobilized their communities to contact ICE, and to ask Senators Durbin and Duckworth to ask ICE to use its discretion and release Yesica.

“Yesica’s supporters, including the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Lake Street Church, The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America,and others hope visibility for her case might influence her dire situation,” said Ms. Elliott. “Through an online petition, calls to ICE, fundraising for legal costs, and other strategic action, networks of churches, community organizations, and individuals across the country have shown tremendous support for Yesica’s release.”

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...