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  • October 10, 2018

Our Attorney, Margaret O’Donoghue’s Reflection on ICE’s Denial of Her Request for A Stay of Removal for her Client with a U.S. Citizen Daughter with Spina Bfida

By:  Margaret O’Donoghue, Associate Attorney

For about the past two years, I have represented Alejandro Medina Franco in his applications for “stays of removal” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).  Alejandro had been deported previously and for this reason he no longer had the opportunity to present his case in front of an immigration judge.  Our office became involved in the case in October 2016 when Alejandro was detained by ICE while walking with his grandson to deposit money in the bank.  His wife came to our office asking if there was anything we could do in his case to stop ICE from deporting him.  She explained that their daughter, Joyce Medina, who was 1-year-old at the time, suffered from a rare disorder called spina bifida, myelomeningocele, meaning that her spinal cord is open along part of her spinal column, and hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain.  We explained that because the condition was so severe, even though he was deported before, we could ask ICE to grant a “stay of removal” allowing him to remain in the United States to help care for Joyce while her condition remained so severe.  We put together the application – explaining the seriousness of Joyce’s condition and the integral role her father played in her care.  The stay of removal request was granted for one year with the option to present more evidence and documents at the close of that year, showing a continuing humanitarian need for her father’s presence in the United States.


Under the present administration, ICE denied Alejandro a stay of removal twice.  He was ultimately removed from the United States.  Their argument was that Joyce’s life-threatening condition “could be adequately treated in Mexico.”  They failed to consider that Alejandro would not be able to afford quality healthcare for his daughter in Mexico or the exceptional emotional and medical suffering she would undergo without her father in her life.  Alejandro was the sole breadwinner of the family and that his wife could not drive – meaning that his presence in the United States was vital to his daughter’s care.  Under this administration he was simply a statistic and a “priority for removal” as an undocumented immigrant.


This experience was heartbreaking for me as an advocate, but it pales in comparison to the pain suffered by little Joyce – who will turn 3-years-old this October – and Joyce’s mother who is now left alone to care for her daughter.  Joyce’s physical well-being will be placed in jeopardy without her father to take her to these appointments, but even more crucially, her emotional development will be set back as well.  She was extremely close with her father and will not be able to understand how he was so abruptly taken from her life.  For me, this case will always serve as a heartbreaking reminder that ICE is separating families unnecessarily not just at our border but right here in the Chicago area.  We are in a unique position as advocates to counteract these forces and fight hard to keep families together.  That is something that all of us at Ahlgren and Associates are fighting every day for.


Here are some of the links to the media coverage of Alejandro’s story: