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Statement of Sister Pat Murphy and Jo Ann Persch
Sisters of Mercy

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearing on the Human Rights and Deportation and Detention Policies of Migrants in the United States
March 28, 2011

Every week we have the privilege of visiting with immigrant detainees at McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, Illinois, and also the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center in Broadview, Illinois. At both locations we encounter stories of detained immigrants and each one has its own example of inhumane treatment.

During one recent visit to Broadview, we encountered a mother from El Salvador who was being deported. She had been detained as the result of a traffic stop. She had been taking her one-year-old child to the emergency room when she was pulled over for speeding. Because of her lack of papers, the woman was turned over to ICE and placed in jail. Being a single parent, she had to call a cousin to leave work to come and take her baby so that the child would not be placed in state custody.

The cousin hired a lawyer who took the family’s money, but did nothing and would not answer their calls. To the best of our knowledge, the mother had no previous brush with the law. We met her just as she was about to be put on a van and taken to O’Hare International Airport, where she would be sent to Louisiana before being deported to El Salvador. The mother’s cousin brought her child so that the two could say goodbye. The ICE officers at Broadview took mercy and allowed the mother to hold her child one last time before boarding the van. It was heartbreaking to witness the mother embracing her child for what may have been the last time. There was not a dry eye in room; even the officers were visibly upset by the separation they knew they were playing a role in.

Now the child is left without a mother. She will drink milk, but will not eat anything and cries constantly for her mother. The cousin is now left to raise this child. The Salvadoran woman who was deported has no one in El Salvador to return to. This is one of the many inhumane stories we encounter every week at McHenry and Broadview.