ST. LOUIS – An Overland wife and mother at the center of a deportation dispute has new life in her efforts to stay in America. Ilsa Guzman-Fajardo was released from custody Tuesdays and legal developments have put any potential deportation back to her native Honduras on hold.
Surrounded by friends and family, the 48-year-old walked out of the Robert A. Young Federal Building in downtown St. Louis around 12:15 p.m.
And she couldn’t hold back her emotions.
“I can’t believe I’m outside,” she said. “Thank you, God, for outside again. Thank you, God. Thank you. I’m so excited.”
Guzman-Fajardo had been behind bars since February 12, when she was unexpectedly arrested at the federal building by ICE authorities when she arrived for a scheduled check-in. She’d been checking in regularly with ICE for several years.
Ilsa’s husband, Steve Miller, said he never gave up hope.
“When I went to go see her I just told her we have to keep praying,” he said. “It’s in God’s hands and let’s let God work this problem out. And He did just that.”
Guzman-Fajardo spent much of her jail time at the Pulaski County Detention Center in southern Illinois.
“It’s very hard in the jail; very hard. … Missing my family,” she said.
Guzman-Fajardo has been living illegally in the United States for nearly 20 years, many of them in the St. Louis area. She’s married to a US citizen and has three children, including a son born in the country, and has no criminal history here.
She crossed the border at San Ysidro, California back in November 1999. A deportation order was issued against her in January 2000 after she didn’t show up for an immigration hearing.
But a lawsuit her attorney, Javad Khazaeli, filed in federal court in East St. Louis contends that Guzman-Fajardo was never given a date and time for that hearing.
That, Khazaeli argued, made the deportation order invalid and unconstitutional.
Khazaeli said Guzman-Fajardo’s detention was unconstitutional as well. He said government officials agreed to release Guzman-Fajardo with supervision guidelines while the suit was pending.
“I think when they read what we filed and looked at the facts of her case, they realized that there was some real serious legal deficiencies in this case,” Khazaeli said.
Khazaeli has also filed court papers in San Diego trying to rescind Guzman’s deportation order and also reopen her case so she can attempt to get a green card to remain in the US legally.
There was originally a hearing set for Thursday on Khazaeli’s federal suit but that hearing likely won’t happen.
Fox 2 reached out to an ICE spokesperson for a comment but we’re still waiting to hear back.