Eleven-year-old asylum seeker ordered to return to El Salvador without family

Credit: John Moore

Credit: John Moore

An immigration court in Texas has ordered an 11-year-old girl to be deported to El Salvador alone, and now her family is fighting to have the order suspended.

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Laura Maradiaga entered the country illegally with her mother, Dora Alvarado, and sister, Adamaris Alvarado, through the Texas border in October, KHOU-TV reported.

The family said in a Thursday news conference hosted by immigration advocacy group FIEL that they were trying to escape violence. They told U.S. government officials they feared returning to El Salvador, and were released to pursue their asylum case in the backlogged civil immigration courts, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Since arriving in the U.S., the family said they have attended court dates as instructed. In March, Dora Alvarado attended court with her two daughters, but was confused to learn Laura wasn’t on the docket, The Chronicle reported.

Days later, Alvarado received a letter written in English -- a language she can’t speak or read -- with Laura’s name. It wasn’t until the family returned to court this week that a translator told her the letter is Laura’s removal order.

“I don’t want to leave my mom,” Laura said Thursday. “I want to stay with her.”

Lawyers with FIEL said they believe an error occurred when one of the family’s court hearings was rescheduled because of the government shutdown.

“This mistake done by the immigration court has put this family in jeopardy,” the family’s lawyer, Silvia Mintz, said. “They will be separated if this is not stopped.”

The Executive Office for Immigration Review confirmed to The Chronicle that the removal order was issued for Laura and said it was looking into the case.

Mintz said she will file a motion to reopen the case and said the best-case scenario would be for the court to agree to keep considering Laura's asylum case, The Washington Post reported. The FIEL attorneys hope Laura can return to court by the end of the month.

Laura’s family is one of a record number of Central American families that arrived in the U.S. in recent months, The Post reported, as the Trump administration fights for those seeking asylum to wait in Mexico.

Dora Alvarado said Thursday that the threat is real. Some of Laura's family members have been killed or accosted by gang members, she said.

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