11-year-old Laura Maradiaga's life in El Salvador was far from easy. Last year, her mom, Dora Alvarado, realized that the lives of both her daughters, Laura and 15-year-old Adamaris, were in danger. After one of her relatives testified to a witnessed gang murder in court, her family members started getting picked off, one by one, and a member of MS-13 threatened to kill her and her family if she said a word, The Washington Post reports.
“That’s when mom told us we were going to the United States,” the 11-year-old daughter told the Houston Chronicle.
On October 5 of 2018, officials apprehended the family at the U.S. Mexico border and released them to pursue their claim of asylum. Since then, they’ve met with Immigration and Custom Enforcement every two weeks on the dot, never missing a single one of their 10 appointments.
But when the family appeared in front of an immigration court this week, Laura was suddenly ordered to be ripped from her family and deported back to El Salvador alone. Not only would she lose her family—she could lose her life.
Her attorneys argue that the order for her departure was a result of a clerical error, partially caused by the government shutdown in early 2019 that caused the court to reschedule the court hearing. The family was summoned to immigration court on February 2, but the date was rescheduled to March 12 as President Trump butted heads with Congress over funding for his border wall. And when the family arrived at court, the interpreter said that Laura’s name was not present on the docket.
“The translator said, ‘Do not worry, maybe Laura doesn’t have court today,’” said the family’s immigration attorney, Silvia Mintz.
A few weeks later, the family was sent a letter that they couldn’t read because they don’t understand English. In a court hearing on Wednesday, they learned that the letter was an order for Laura to be deported. Houston Immigration Court Judge Clarease Rankin Yates signed and marked the letter stating that Laura was”not present” during the March 12 hearing.
“I hope the judge can see it was a clear mistake on behalf of the court,” Mintz said. “I don’t think it was ill-intentioned, but it shows how overworked these courts are.”