For lack of anywhere else to go, Amina Silmi spent her first night in Venezuela in a park, worried sick about the three children she left behind in the United States.
Last week Silmi, 35, was deported to this South American nation after 13 years as an illegal resident in the United States. Her case has outraged the Muslim community in Cleveland, the city she considers her home.
“I’m so depressed right now,” she told The Associated Press in a weekend interview, squeezing a crumpled napkin she used to wipe her tearstained face. “I don’t know when I’ll see my kids again. I can’t think. I can’t do anything.”
The thin, raven-haired woman said she has no friends or family in a country she hasn’t seen in more than a decade. She has no idea where to look for a job or a home.
In Ohio, a sister is looking after her children: Haiat Awad, 12; Fida Salti, 6; and Belal Salti, 5. They are U.S. citizens. Silmi let them stay because she didn’t want to drag them into destitution with her.
Silmi’s supporters, including Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, had lobbied U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge, arguing that a “zealous interpretation” of immigration laws was breaking a family apart.
Silmi is barred from returning to the United States for 10 years for failing to obey a 2001 order to leave, according to Greg Palmore, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Homeland Security…
“Often, the abuser holds their status over head. They say, ‘If you report me, I’m going to report you to immigration.’ It’s another tool of power and control,” said Julia Shearson, director of the Cleveland offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Her lawyers won a temporary stay, and she spent the next two months in prisons in several U.S. cities. One of her worst memories was being put in shackles while a reporter interviewed her in Atlanta.
“It was so humiliating. I begged them not to put them on,” she said.
She lost her appeal March 18. She was jailed in Beaumont, Texas, before she was deported”¦