Deportation to Mexico of the mother of a cancer-stricken girl would be cruelty, the Bishop of El Paso has said. “It certainly touched my heart to hear about this little girl in the hospital, facing the possibility that her mother would be deported,” the Bishop Mark Seitz told the El Paso Times Aug.7, adding “Clearly it would be a cruel thing for our country to deport her mother.”
He has met with Alia Escobedo, 8, and her mother Maria Elena de Loera, who sought asylum in the U.S. in 2014 after her husband was killed in Mexico. She has said she feared for the safety of her children. Bishop Seitz joined other religious leaders and the woman's lawyer at the El Paso Processing Center in asking ICE officials to halt her deportation.
Since her mother arrived in the U.S., Alia has since been diagnosed with bone cancer. She has gone through eight surgeries on her leg, lungs and mouth. While the cancer appeared to be removed and went into remission in February, it has returned with tumors in her lungs.
“Her medical condition is very complicated. Two different kinds of cancer,” the bishop said of the girl. “Her ongoing treatment is something that is extremely important in a situation like this.”
The woman facing possible deportation reflected on her daughter's endurance. “She is very strong,” de Loera said. “She has tremendous strength. She does not give up. She wants to keep living.” “If we go back to Juarez, she is not going to survive. She has a better chance to live if she stays here,” the mother told the El Paso Times.
The case was the first time Bishop Seitz had intervened directly to prevent an individual's deportation. “The Church's responsibility is, I think, to speak the gospel and to speak to the conscience of people in our country to call us to something better, to call us to be a place of compassion, even as we deal with these complex issues of immigration,” he said.
In 2015 immigration officials denied de Loera's request to remain in the U.S., but granted her a reprieve while her daughter was undergoing cancer treatments. They have argued that her sister is caretaker of her daughter, but de Loera said that there are no documents guaranteeing her sister is the guardian.
De Loera wears an ankle monitor and immigration officials can access her location any time. Her attorney, Linda Rivas, has asked immigration officials to reconsider renewal of her permit and to reverse orders to deport her. Rivas said ICE officials have agreed to consider the evidence to decide whether de Loera can remain in the U.S.
“We find this to be good news and we do appreciate the cooperation from ICE at this time given that Maria is at her daughter's side,” she said.