A mother in Ohio says she’s living in fear of being deported and separated from her four children, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome.
“Please, please. I’m begging everyone. Just let me stay with my family,” she told our affiliate WKEF. “They need me. They need me.”
Fatiha Elgharib entered the United States legally 13 years ago as an immigrant from Morocco. She has lived in the U.S for over 22 years, but her work visa expired a few years ago.
She says it hasn’t been a problem until this year.
<h2>Everything changed after the new administration took office</h2>
Elgharib received a letter from the Columbus, Ohio, branch of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking her to come to their offices on August 22nd to discuss her immigration status.
When she appeared for her hearing, ICE officials told her she was going to be deported back to Morocco.
Her attorney, Shahrzad P. Allen, told the Dayton Daily News that under the Obama administration, someone like Fatiha was not a priority for removal. Everything changed in February, after the Trump administration rolled back guidance that directed ICE agents to focus on violent criminals and new arrivals.
“She doesn’t have any criminal convictions," Allen says. "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."
<h2>Her youngest son, Sammie, is 7-years-old and has Down syndrome</h2>
He’s fully dependent on his mother for care, but that wasn’t enough to convince a judge to let her stay.
“They want to send me back and leave him by himself. They say the sister can take care of him.” That's what Elgharib says was the judge's reasoning for denying her stay.
Her 19-year-old daughter, Sara, said was shocked when she heard the judge say that she would have to be the one to take care of Sammie. "Since when should the siblings have to be the mom?" she said. "When should they have to? When the mom didn't even do anything. When she's innocent."
Since her meeting with ICE in August, Elgharib has worn an ankle bracelet monitoring her whereabouts and has had to check-in at the Ohio immigration office every week.
<h2>Authorities told her that she could be deported at any time</h2>
Every Monday, when Elgharib checks in at the ICE offices, she has to mentally prepare herself for deportation. According to deportation papers she received from ICE, she could be deported back to Morocco at anytime without any warning.
“They don't let nobody know,” she told WKEF. “Even your lawyer.”
Once the deportation takes place, Elgharib will immediately be detained and removed from the country. Family members only find out the deportation has taken place once ICE informs their lawyer, which could be hours later.
The family is working with Senator Sherrod Brown (D – OH) and Senator Rob Portman (R – OH) for help.
“The president of the United States could back off from deporting people who are active church members, employed, good parents, been in this country for years, not broken the law," Sen. Portman said. "Why would you deport them? If you care about families, you keep them together. They are not criminals. If they’re criminals, deport them.”
Elgharib’s husband works full time, while she stays at home. His visa also expired years ago but he isn't facing deportation because under Obama, his case was closed, allowing him to stay.
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