“I feel I’ve lost everything.”
Before she was deported, ICE detained Vanessa, now 34, in the Irwin County Detention Facility, an immigration jail notorious for harrowing conditions and medical abuse. Vanessa was among the women victimized by a doctor who performed nonconsensual, painful, and unnecessary gynecological procedures on people detained in the Irwin facility. Ultimately, Vanessa felt she had no choice but to agree to deportation because she could no longer bear to stay in detention. Deportation forced Vanessa to leave behind her 19-year-old son Jason, who lives with a physical disability and is wheelchair-bound, and who relied on his mother to support his physical mobility. Deportation also separated Vanessa from her 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.
Mother, caregiver, entrepreneur
Vanessa’s oldest son Jason experiences significant physical disability as a result of Pompe Disease, a rare disorder that causes weakening of organs and tissues. While living with her family in North Carolina, Vanessa served as the main source of support for Jason his entire life, organizing his medical appointments, ensuring pharmaceutical companies could deliver his long list of medications, and staying by his side to help him move from one place to another and thrive as a young man with a disability. Jason was an avid wheelchair basketball player and played in a league starting at age 7 but had to stop playing when Vanessa was deported because he could no longer afford the fees and no longer had a ride to away games. Vanessa also ran her own business cleaning homes for nearly a decade.
In addition to the medical abuse Vanessa suffered in ICE detention, she also survived domestic abuse by her ex-partner who, as a result of her deportation, is now the primary caretaker of her three children.
Alone in El Salvador
Since her arrival in El Salvador, Vanessa has been robbed twice and for the first year lived in constant fear for her safety. Today, Vanessa earns a living working at an English-language call center. She FaceTimes and texts with her children throughout the day. Vanessa has not seen her children in person in nearly three years.
“My son told me I have to put up Christmas lights here. He keeps me going. He has overcome so much in his life and he is helping me overcome how life is now. I didn’t want to put up lights — because for what? I feel I’ve lost everything. The only thing that keeps me alive are my children who I can’t even get to — it’s my son’s words and his pep talks that keep me alive.”
Vanessa has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exercise its discretion and grant her request for humanitarian parole so that she can reunite with her children. She also asks that DHS expedite her request for U nonimmigrant status.
Deported to El Salvador in 2020 after 20 years in the U.S.
Medically abused in detention, then coerced into deportation
Lived in Clayton, North Carolina
Separated from three children, including son with special needs
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