Honduras prevents ICE from deporting Pomona alum’s mother, who’s a cancer survivor

A pink sign which reads "#Free Tania Now" above a yellow sign which reads "#release Tania now"
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allegedly tried to deport Tania Romero, mother of Cristian Jose Padilla Romero PO ’18, earlier this week. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Two and a half weeks have passed since Cristian Padilla Romero PO ’18 started a petition and GoFundMe to help his mother, a stage 4 cancer survivor currently being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention, escape deportation to Honduras. 

ICE allegedly attempted to deport Tania Romero, Cristian’s mother, earlier this week, her son said, but wasn’t able to because Honduras wouldn’t provide the appropriate travel documents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Originally from Honduras, Tania came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant two decades ago, according to The New York Times. In mid-August of this year, she was pulled over for speeding in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and arrested for not having a driver’s license, Cristian told TSL.

ICE allegedly relocated Tania from the Irwin County Detention Center where Tania has been held to an unknown airport but could not deport her because she lacked the necessary travel documents, which the Honduran consulate refused to issue when ICE requested them three weeks ago, Cristian said.

The consulate said it would not provide the papers because it’s investigating whether Tania could receive the medical care she needs should she return to Honduras, the Journal-Constitution reported. 

Records obtained by the Journal-Constitution from Grady Memorial Hospital, where Tania received cancer treatment, indicate that she requires health monitoring and follow-up care over the next four years. 

In Honduras, Tania would not only lack the treatment she needs, but also insurance for that treatment, the Atlanta Honduran consul general Angelina Williams told the Journal-Constitution. 

“This contradicts one of ICE’s main justifications for not granting her a stay of deportation, as they claim she would have access to the necessary care,” Cristian wrote in the statement. 

“My mom’s not doing well. … Monday was a very traumatic experience, physical and emotional,” he said. “We’re really urging them to release her now.” – Cristian Padilla Romero PO ’18

Tania’s case — and Cristian’s advocacy — have garnered national attention, and politicians like former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have tweeted support for Tania.

The online petition urging Tania’s release has attracted more than 37,900 signatures, and the GoFundMe campaign has raised $39,295 for her legal and medical bills.

Cristian told TSL that Tania sought medical attention Tuesday and was told to make a request for care, which would have taken two to three days. 

Instead, we told our attorney to make a formal request to the warden because of the urgency of the matter,” he said. 

Tania was taken to an offsite facility Wednesday for a brief check-up before being transported back to the detention center, according to Cristian.

“We see it as more them covering their bases as opposed to doing what we’re asking,” Cristian said. 

His girlfriend, Anayansi Alatorre Romo PO ’20, said Tania received a similar “check-up” last week. 

What we need is for her to be released to go see her oncologist, granted that she missed an appointment in September,” she said. 

Cristian said the family posted bail. But instead of being released, Tania was transferred to the detention center. 

While in the detention center, Tania filed for a motion to reopen her case, her son said. But a judge rejected the motion last month, and the family found out about a week later. 

She’s currently trying to get her case reconsidered. 

Cristian, who’s currently a doctorate student at Yale University, talked to Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Representative Rosa Delauro and Georgia Representative Lucy McBath about the situation. 

“They were positive; they seemed willing to support and do whatever they can do in regards to her case and getting her released,” he told TSL. “We’re still in communication, but overall it was very positive.”

Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr also reached out to the offices of two local members of Congress two weeks ago regarding the situation, according to Pomona spokesperson Mark Kendall.

Nevertheless, Cristian said he’s increasingly concerned about his mother’s safety and medical condition. 

“My mom’s not doing well. … Monday was a very traumatic experience, physical and emotional,” he said. “We’re really urging them to release her now.”

Cristian said he came to the U.S. when he was 7 years old after his mother arrived beforehand. He’s an undocumented immigrant but protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Supreme Court is currently considering overturning. 

On Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments in the case while around 500 Claremonters gathered on the steps outside Pomona College’s Frary Dining Hall in solidarity with DACAmented students, many of them carrying signs with “Free Tania now” in capital letters.

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