“Christmas is supposed to be about Christianity and supporting a stranger in a strange land. Jesus’ family was forced to flee, and if everybody had said no you can’t come here we’re building this wall, what would have happened?”
– Shiller Preyar Law Offices lead immigration attorney Chris Bergin
Francisca Lino has been fighting for 18 years to stay in the United States with her family–who are all U.S. citizens. This year Ms. Lino and Shiller Preyar Law Offices (SPLO) had to get more creative to keep her family together. Over the course of the year she chose to take sanctuary in a church and a federal lawsuit to fight a Trump administration deportation order.
In March, Ms. Lino went to her scheduled Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-in and they told her to return in August with a plane ticket out of the country. Instead of electing to leave, SPLO lead immigration attorney Chris Bergin–who has been Ms. Lino’s lawyer for the past decade–informed ICE that she would be taking sanctuary at a church in Humboldt Park.
“I know this won’t be easy,” Ms. Lino said in August. “But my family is worth fighting for and I won’t give up until I exhaust all my options because I deserve to be here, I am not a criminal.”
Ms. Lino’s husband, Diego Luna, works night shifts and while she is in sanctuary her younger children are alone in their Bolingbrook home. Ms. Lino says she is not just resisting the deportation order to keep her own family together, but also for other families who are being targeted.
In November, Ms. Lino, her pastor Emma Lozano, and SPLO attorneys announced a federal civil rights against over a dozen U.S. immigration agencies and directors, including President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and ICE. The immigration lawsuit was filed in the days following.
“Both Shiller Preyar Law Offices and the Westside Justice Center are going to continue to fight for Mrs. Lino and everyone else in her sort of situation,” said SPLO attorney Abby Bakos. “We not only take great sympathy but we do believe that the government has violated her due process rights and we are going to do anything we can to stop that from continuing to happen.”
The moment Francisca Lino stepped onto United States land she gained the right to due process to a fair trial. However, when she crossed through the El Paso, Texas entry point in July 1999 she was sent back without notice or explanation–the only information she was given about this ‘expedited removal order’ was in English, a language she did not speak.
“In any setting when the federal government does something to try to impact your rights they have to let you know what you’re doing it,” said SPLO managing partner Brendan Shiller. “And they have to let you know explicitly, and if they fail to do that then your due process rights are violated and they failed to do that in her situation.”
Without knowing the consequences of her original removal, Mrs. Lino re-entered later that year. She moved to Bolingbrook, and two years later married her husband, who was a Legal permanent Resident of the U.S. at the time.
In 2001 Ms. Lino filed a I-130 family-based petition to get a visa, which was approved by Department of Homeland Security three years later.
But in 2005, after her interview for the visa at the U.S. Citizen Immigration Services (USCIS) Chicago Field Office in 2005 she was arrested and detained. Agents of USCIS were attempting to reinstate her 1999 Expedited Removal Order.
Ms. Lino was held for over 20 days before being released on bond to Mr. Lino. Since this arrest, Ms. Lino has received several stays of removal. She has purchased a house, paid taxes, and raised a family. Her Senators and House Representatives have shown her support, as well as her community and family and friends.
“By allowing her to engage in various civil processes in the immigration courts, the federal government gave [Ms. Lino] a reason to rely on its implicit promise that she had immigration and civil rights in this country,” said Shiller. “By going back on that promise, they are violating that due process again.”
This lawsuit is civil but has consequences for her immigration case; people who are plaintiffs in civil lawsuits are not supposed to be deported, as that would be an obstruction of justice. And if SPLO attorneys are able to prove that her original 1999 expedited removal order violated her due process rights, they will have no standing to deport her now.
SPLO hopes that this lawsuit will put the government on notice that they can’t just deport people without due process.
“I went into sanctuary so that I could continue my struggle in the courts,” said Ms. Lino. “Today I am doing that for myself, my children, and the five million U.S. citizen children now facing separation from their family or mother.”