For the last 30 years, Martha Lozano has had a pretty straightforward set of priorities. Providing for three sons and taking care of her own health in the face of two cancer diagnoses were firmly at the top.
On Monday, she made a last-ditch effort to confront her latest, greatest challenge: Staying in the country.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ordered Lozano, 52, of Modesto to leave the country by Thursday. Having exhausted all legal avenues, Lozano’s attorney in Fresno – Camille K. Cook – held a news conference to share her client’s story. Lozano was flanked by her eldest son, who will likely take over her parenting duties for his youngest brother – a student at Roosevelt Junior High School in Modesto.
“ICE has the power and discretion to still grant a further extension of the stay,” Cook said. “It’s been my experience in the past that sometimes negative publicity would get them to change their minds. Because that’s really the only hope. She has no other legal recourse.”
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Lozano worries that without the extensive medical treatment she’s received for nearly a decade, as well as the four medications for thyroid and breast cancer she must take daily for the rest of her life, she may die. She’s made no plans for her future in Mexico, saying it would likely take months or years to find insurance or another way to pay for her treatment. She views staying in the United States as her only option.
Lozano was first ordered to leave the country voluntarily in 2003. She received successive stays for deportation – one-year reprieves granted by ICE for applicants who demonstrate they’re battling significant hardship and can not leave the country.
Cook noted that Lozano received poor legal advice in 2003 from a Bay Area attorney that led to her deportation order. Lozano, who has no criminal history, had been told she was applying for asylum, when in fact her attorney essentially brought her to court with no actual defense. In 2006, that attorney left the bar with misconduct charges pending.
In January, Lozano’s doctors wrote a letter to ICE, saying her health “could be jeopardized in the absence of consistent, multidisciplinary, team-based medical follow-up.” However, ICE denied her request. Its legal reasoning was essentially that Lozano, whose cancers have been in remission for several years now, is healthy enough to return to her native Mexico.
Once she’s deported, she will have to stay in Mexico for at least 10 years.
ICE officials were asked for comment, but they did not provide one.
Lozano has three sons: Jonathan, 25; Ignacio, 22 and Eduardo, 14. She’s raised them as a single parent since 2009, when her husband was deported. Jonathan remembers his father being pulled over and taken away from the family as they drove his mother to the hospital for a surgery related to her breast cancer.
After his father was deported, Jonathan assumed the role of family breadwinner, as his mother could not work while battling cancer. He works as a tow truck driver, and he’s hopeful that he and Ignacio will be able to provide for Eduardo with both of their parents gone.
Jonathan expressed confusion at ICE’s decision to deny his mother’s request, as her health hasn’t changed much in the last few years. She’s been granted stays while in remission before.
Cook narrowed in on his point: The only thing that’s really changed in the last year or so is the administration – referring to increased crackdown on undocumented people under President Donald Trump.
According to Cook and other Fresno immigration attorneys, Lozano’s denied stay of deportation is part of a growing trend in the central San Joaquin Valley. Requests for permission to stay that have been approved for years are almost unilaterally being denied.
Olga Grosh, an attorney with Fresno-based Pasifika Immigration Law Group, said ICE used to approve stays and offer other deals to undocumented immigrants who presented no risk to the community. Cases were terminated, allowing her clients to pursue legal residency and citizenship.
Over the last year, this prosecutorial discretion has completely disappeared, Grosh said. ICE is working to deport anyone with a deportation order unfortunate enough to end up in front of a judge – including unaccompanied minors and those actively working towards citizenship.
This has spread fear across the community, Grosh said, as even those here legally believe that ICE is looking to deport any immigrant it can contact.
“Even naturalized citizens are afraid,” she said. “I’m a naturalized citizen, and I wonder if I need to bring my passport with me when I leave the house.”