Even after I Won My Case, ICE Wouldn’t Let Me Go until My Lawyer Intervened

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My mother begged me not to give up. She told me I had good lawyers and a good case, but I was like, “Ma, I can’t take it.” I decided I was just going to sign the deportation papers. I knew that is what they want you to do. The guard would say, “You want your freedom, you know what you gotta do. You know you are supposed to be free, but you are here.” It messes with you deeply. It breaks you inside.

Every time I went to court, I would feel anxious and depressed. In my head, I was already deported. There are so many people who have good cases and still get deported. I came over here when I was eight. I was the last one to be brought to the United States, after my mother came here to make a better life. All my family is here now, and I am not familiar with anything in the Dominican Republic. I really have nobody there. My mother—all my family—is here.

I had good lawyers. My attorney was always in contact with my family. She got me transferred from Batavia to New York so I could be closer to them. When I was going to sign the deportation papers just to get out of detention, my lawyer said, “No, no. You have a good chance.” Having a lawyer helps you mentally because you have somebody that actually cares for your well-being and wants you to stay in the United States. It’s not just you by yourself. It makes you feel like you have a chance. If a person doesn’t have somebody representing them, it feels like you have no choice but to deport yourself. There are people in detention who only speak Spanish. They don’t even know how to speak to the judge or understand what the judge is saying. When you have a lawyer, it takes more stress and anxiety away from you.

When I learned the deportation proceedings were terminated, I just started crying. Usually, I will never cry in front of anybody, but it was overwhelming. People saw me in there crying like a baby. My head was spinning and I was like, “No way, it can’t be real.”

My lawyer expected me to be released from immigration jail in a week or two after the judge terminated the case, but they didn’t let me out. They said it was because they didn’t receive paperwork from the judge, but even after they received the paperwork, they kept me in there. It was a real struggle, and I felt like I was already losing it. I said, “What do they want from me?” There were just more excuses. I was waiting for days, and then they said they were waiting to see if the government was going to appeal. I was going crazy. My family was going crazy. I couldn’t believe they were going to have me sit and wait for an appeal. I said, “This can’t happen. This can’t happen.”

I called my lawyer and she said, “Don’t worry, I am pushing.” She had to write to the judge and explain that ICE was refusing to let me out. I was there for close to a month longer than I should have been. Even my friends in there were talking to the guards and asking them what was going on. It was a month of calling and pressing and pressing before they let me go.

They finally let me out. Now, I’m doing good. I got a construction job. I can see my family. By the grace of God, I am healthy. Everything is for a reason and a purpose. I just keep moving forward, you know?

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Read the Spanish version of Julian's story.