Immigration officials give brief reprieve for Maui woman facing deportation to Mexico

Updated: Apr. 4, 2017 at 9:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tania Vanegas said a letter she received in March from Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement brought her face to face with her deepest fear.

"I received a letter that say we need to come to Honolulu for deportation," she said.

Vanegas is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Her 15-year-old son, Edgard, said the letter stopped him cold.

"I came back from school when she got the letter and I read it. It was terrifying," he said.

The one-page letter said there was "no available administrative relief" that could be offered to Vanegas, and arrangements had been made for her departure.

Vanegas, 33, lives on Maui with her three children. She suffered violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and fears going back to Mexico will endanger her life.

"I think it's not a good idea for me and for my kids. I don't want to go to Mexico," she said.

Immigration attorney Clare Hanusz says Mexico is too dangerous for Vanegas and her family.

"She has a well-founded fear of persecution in her home country, and even without the children that should be enough for her to be able to stay in the United States," Hanusz said.

After reviewing her case Tuesday, a deportation officer allowed her to remain in Hawaii on a $5,000 bond.  Edgard said it was an answer to prayer.

"We put it all on the Lord to help us face this," he said.

Some in the community also expressed support to delay Vanegas's deportation.

Hanusz said many people, most of whom didn't know Vanegas, showed up at the immigration building to express support for her.

"The word got out that there was a Maui mom facing deportation and the community came out. There were dozens of people there," Hanusz said.

Vanegas works as a house keeper to support her family.  She isn't a criminal or a flight risk. Her sister is a U.S. citizen.

"Not being legal here it's hard for her and it's hard for the whole family, because right now we're here but we can't make plans for the future," Zuzeth Vanegas said.

The reprieve is temporary.

"Today I'm staying but in six more months I don't what happens with my kids," Tania Vanegas said.

In six months immigration officials will re-evaluate Vanegas's status.  Hanusz is appealing to have her asylum case re-opened.

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