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Judge defers to ICE In Troy woman’s bid for freedom

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Judge defers to ICE In Troy woman’s bid for freedom

Batavia, NY –Monique de Latour and her granddaughter Savannah arrived at the ICE detention facility a little after 9 A.M. on Thursday morning. They’d made the four-hour drive from Troy the day before and spent the night in a local motel in order to make what they thought would be Dalila Yeend’s bond hearing. They’d expected her trial to come in November, but this hearing offered hope that she might be able to wait for it at home in Troy with her children. Yeend, de Latour’s daughter and Savannah’s mother has been in ICE detention for nearly 2 months.

What they got instead of a bond hearing was a reminder that ICE has complete control of Yeend’s fate, as the judge scheduled to consider bond decided he did not have jurisdiction. ICE officials successfully made the argument that Yeend had been “paroled” into the country originally when she visited America as a 17-year-old in 2000.

At that time, immigration officials were much more lenient and may have simply allowed her in to see her mother who was already in the United States rather than sending her home or forcing her through a complicated process. De Latour disputes that she was paroled in and instead believes she filled out a temporary visa, she plans to look for proof.

Yeend will now have a trial on her Green Card application on Sept. 27. Her lawyer Siana McLean will continue pushing ICE for bond.

Yeend had been led into the courtroom before her mother and daughter even arrived.

De Latour was held up at security–much longer, she says, than when she and her granddaughter came to visit the day before. Security requires the name, driver’s license, phone number, and license plate number of each visitor.

A guard had warned her that she wouldn’t be allowed in because minors were barred from the courtroom. That shouldn’t have been a problem, as seven other interested parties traveled from the Capital Region to lend their support to Yeend and de Latour.

One of them could have easily watched Savannah. The presence of this reporter also set off commotion with guards at the gate of the detention facility and those in the court radioing back and forth about whether a journalist could even be allowed in. Eventually, it was announced that the judge would decide whether he was comfortable with a journalist in the courtroom.

However, that point also became moot as the judge decided he had no jurisdiction while Yeend’s family and supporters sat in the waiting room. De Latour was furious. She wanted to launch an immediate protest. She discussed murals she might paint on buildings decrying what she sees as racist proceedings. Her lawyer encouraged restraint.

Yeend has been detained in the facility for almost two months, leaving her two American-born children in the care of her grandmother de Latour. Yeend was held by Troy police department for ICE after she was arrested for rolling through a stop sign. She was sent from there to Albany County Jail where at least one ICE agent, according to de Latour, questioned whether she should even be detained in the first place. She was eventually shipped off to Batavia.

Yeend says she’s had a number of failed attempts to attain citizenship but due to lawyers who either bilked her or simply quit practicing law she never finished the process.

Immigration lawyers say that under past administrations people like Yeend would never have been detained. She would have been assigned a case worker and required to check in. Yeend’s circumstances are further extenuated by her two American-born children.

McLean says that under past administrations she was able to speak to directly to the ICE field director to make appeals. She says current field director Tom Feely is unmoved by appeals and generally inaccessible.

“We were ordered not to fully enforce the law under the previous administration,” said Feeley, told The Times Union in December 2017.  “Under President Trump, we are enforcing the law the way Congress wrote it. If it’s a heinous crime, like a Columbian drug lord who was a cartel member who we just deported or a rapist, a murderer, a pedophile or somebody who is here illegally, we are going to enforce the law. We make no apology for that.”

Yeend greeted each visitor from behind a white brick wall, thick glass and a phone receiver. This reporter spoke to Yeend, her eyes bloodshot, her face streaked with thick tears.

Yeend wears an orange jumpsuit because she’s considered a “criminal detainee.” She was arrested in Troy while allegedly rolling through a stop sign. Other detainees wear blue. Yeend says two detainees she knows were picked up for crossing the Canadian border by mistake. “They were just following their GPS.” One of them, she says, spent a week in detention.

Yeend says she feels like she’s being treated like a statistic rather than a person, a mother of two young American-born children, one of whom has mental health issues.

“ICE is the only one that can give me back my freedom and they won’t,” she says. “ICE can grant bond but my lawyer says she hasn’t seen ICE grant one in two years.”

“No one has bothered to look at my file. No one has looked to see my son has these issues. That he needs me. It’s great that they reunified these families at the border but I’ve been in the country for 18 years. I have two American-born children. Why don’t they care about my children? ICE could just reunite us but they won’t.”

McLean said that she’s simply been shut out by ICE over the last two years. She says Yeend’s case, under previous administrations, would have been a “slam dunk” for a release. Now she says all her requests are met with two-sentence denials that offer no reasoning other than that Yeend might be a flight risk. She points out that Yeend’s children are in America, that Yeend stayed in America while dealing with physical abuse from her former partner so that she could be there for her children.

Yeend says that she has hope for her September date but has to reset her focus and prepare to get through until then. She says this ordeal will likely scar her children “for life.”

Her daughter Savannah returns from her brief visit with her mother in tears. She wants to go home. She thought this would be the day her mother would go free. She’s no longer sure she will ever go free.  

Last week she and her grandmother fretted for a day when they couldn’t reach Yeend by phone. They thought perhaps she’d been deported. de Latour reached out to advocates, reporters, and eventually the local sheriff’s department.  She was assured Yeend was still there and that there was a computer glitch that brought communication down.

“I’m sick of this shit,” says de Latour. “I’m sick of the lies.”

McLean cautions her. “We’re in the realm of discretion here. Everything is at ICE’s discretion. There isn’t law here. It’s all policy, and it can change.”

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