Protesters, family members, churchgoers and employers gathered in front of Baltimore's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices Thursday morning in support of a New Carrollton woman.
Marta Rodriguez, 53, said she entered the United States illegally in 2005. She later obtained a work permit and has been required to regularly meet with ICE for the past nine years. But prior to Thursday's meeting, she was fearful of being deported.
After meeting with the office, Rodriguez stated that she was granted two more months before the next appointment, which she hoped would give her more time to fight her case.
"We came with a glimpse of hope, but still we knew what we were facing. … I'm happy to have two more months," Rodriguez said through translation from her daughter, Yessenia Rodriguez, 20. Marta Rodriguez added that she's hopeful that the next meeting with ICE will be an even better response.
"She wants everyone united in this cause. She wants people to know we're not the only family going through this," her son Angel Rodriguez, 24, said.
More than a dozen people were in attendance to support Rodriguez, who stated that she was told in March by ICE to "come with a ticket to Honduras" because this was not her country.
ICE could not immediately respond to The Baltimore Sun's specific requests for comments, but said they are working on requests.
Activist groups, including Faith in Action and DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, created a Facebook page, inviting people to Rodriguez's ICE appointment.
Betty Hawks, 68, and Helen Daniel, 74, drove up from Washington to attend the event after hearing about it on Facebook.
"This country should be a place where you find safety and refuge," Hawks said to Rodriguez, with a sign that read "Marta Rodriguez" above the words "mother, worker, taxpayer."
"She's all of these things," Hawks said. "We're glad to be here for her."
Rodriguez, a mother of six, first immigrated to the United States in 1994 to escape an abusive relationship she said she was forced into at age 15 and to provide a better life for her family, including her oldest disabled son, who requires 24-hour care. In 1998, she returned to Honduras to be with her children, but in 2005, after her second husband died in an accident in the United States, money was low and two of her children required medical attention, according to Angel. Rodriguez decided to return to the United States illegally.
Since then, Rodriguez has been living in the country, and has worked here legally since 2009, according to her lawyer, Hector Mora, an attorney for Washington-based WMR Immigration Law Group. Rodriguez has also been under observation of ICE and attending "appointments" where she checks in about her whereabouts — meetings that make her tremble and feel like she can't breathe, she said.
"It's really hard when they want to take you away from your children," she said.
Mora, who has been assisting Rodriguez for the past few weeks, said that Rodriguez's case is complicated. An order for deportation has been on her record since 2006, and the current presidential administration is adamant about enforcing all orders, he said.
Mora said the next steps are to renew Rodriguez's expired passport, which is in the possession of ICE, and for Mora to decide whether she wants to file a motion to reopen her case before a judge in hopes of being granted relief.
"It's very difficult to open a case that old … so it will be an extraordinary situation," Mora said, adding that ultimately the decision lies in the hands of the judge.