— illustration by Blair Gauntt
Update: On Oct. 18, ICE provided an email statement to Little Village that has been added to the story.
Asucena Natareno Ramirez has been held without bail in an Iowa jail since Oct. 3, and her attorney still can’t get a satisfactory explanation for why she was arrested. Natareno Ramirez, a native of Guatemala who has been living with relatives in Mount Pleasant while her application for asylum is under consideration, was at the Cedar Rapids office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a routine check-in when ICE agents arrested her. ICE informed her attorney Dan Vondra by phone that the agents had an administrative arrest warrant for Natareno Ramirez alleging she is present in the country “in violation of the law.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Vondra, an Iowa City attorney who specializes in immigration law, told Little Village.
In 2016, Natareno Ramirez fled Guatemala to escape domestic violence. Arriving at the U.S., border, she voluntarily surrendered to U.S. immigration officials and applied for asylum. After reviewing the facts of her case, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) granted Natareno Ramirez humanitarian parole, and Natareno Ramirez traveled to Iowa to live with her family members.
According to CIS, “Humanitarian parole is used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible, into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency. There must be an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit for the parole to be granted.”
“While she’s been on parole—and typically it takes several years to get a hearing on an asylum request—she’s being going to see ICE on a regular schedule, so they can make sure she’s not breaking any laws and isn’t working illegally, things such as that,” Vondra explained. “She’s gone to every one of those meetings, and then they decided to take into to custody with no bond.”
“Frankly, Cedar Rapids ICE has been bad for a long time, but I’ve never seen them go to this level of no bond for someone who has no criminal record, someone who has a legitimate underlying claim for asylum and who has been checking in.”
Since her arrest, Natareno Ramirez has been held in the Hardin County Jail in Eldora, which serves as a detention facility for people arrested by ICE.
Little Village contacted the ICE field office in St. Paul, Minnesota, which handles media inquiries for the region that includes Iowa, to ask why Natareno Ramirez was arrested and why she was held with no bail. ICE Public Affairs Officer Shawn Neudauer sent the following reply:
On Oct. 3, ICE deportation officers arrested Asucena Natareno-Ramirez, from Guatemala, and issued her a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge. She is currently in ICE custody until she pays an immigration bond or attends an immigration court proceeding.
“We filed a request for a bond hearing with an immigration judge,” Vondra said. “My guess is that will probably happen in the next few weeks. She’s certainly bond eligible. Denial of bond is used in cases where there’s a flight risk or the person presents a safety risk to the community. In this case, she showed up and presented herself on every occasion she was required to. And as for being a safety risk to the community, she’s a 24-year-old woman with no criminal record. ”
In the meantime, friends and supporters of Natareno Ramirez have organized a rally at ICE headquarters in Cedar Rapids planned for 3:45 p.m. on Thursday to protest her arrest and continued detention.
“Asucena has done everything they’ve asked of her, since she arrived at the border in 2016. We’ve got an innocent person here, in jail with no bond,” Vondra said. “Every day she sits in jail is an affront to justice.”