September 26, 2011


Amid new guidelines, Va. woman's deportation case comes down to the last minute (Eli Saslow, September 25 , 2011, Washington Post)

She picked up her cellphone at 7:45 a.m. and called her attorney in Manassas. He spoke little Spanish and she spoke little English, but he was her only chance left. She had gone through four lawyers and $10,000 since November 2009, when a police officer pulled her over for driving with a suspended license and discovered she had entered the country twice without documentation. While the government began to push for her removal, Godoy e-mailed congressmen and took a bus to New York to meet a self-proclaimed immigration specialist who charged her $1,500 and then stopped returning her calls.

Finally, late last month, a friend recommended that Godoy visit Ricky Malik, a young lawyer in Manassas. He told Godoy about the just-released guidelines and helped her apply for a stay of removal for two more years in the United States. He stapled a copy of the guidelines to her request. Godoy had been calling him for updates five or six times every day since.

This time, her call went directly to voice mail, and with 23 hours left Godoy decided to leave another message.

"SeƱor, por favor," she said. Please.

It was the first day of school for her two sons, so Godoy tried to lose herself in the details of the life she still had. She filled up her boyfriend's car with gas, even though the boyfriend and the car would both be staying behind. She breast-fed her 4-week-old baby, Marilyn Nicole, even though the baby was too young to have received a birth certificate or a passport and would stay in the United States to be cared for by her father.

She drove her two sons, ages 10 and 6, across south Richmond to their elementary school, even though they would need to transfer later in the week if they moved in with relatives. The boys jumped over puddles in the parking lot and followed Godoy into the building. She walked Diego, 10, to his fifth-grade classroom.

"The first day makes me nervous," he said.

"I know," she told him. "Be brave."

The boys wanted to move with Godoy to Guatemala, but she had decided that they would stay in the United States with their grandmother. Godoy finally had built the life she wanted for her family since she crossed the border in 2000, paying a smuggler $6,000 and spending two months traveling on buses and foot trails before finally entering the United States through Texas. Her siblings and cousins lived nearby in Richmond. Despite the sluggish economy, she still managed to clean enough houses to pay the rent on a two-bedroom apartment. Her kids rode around the neighborhood on bikes and came home to play their Nintendo Wii. Two of them were U.S. citizens. Their lives were here.

Paula walked out of the elementary school and returned home. She e-mailed another congressman, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), whom she had seen talking about the new immigration guidelines on TV.

"I am desperate and out of time," she wrote in Spanish. "I don't know if my life will be here or there."

She looked up at the kitchen clock. Almost 10 a.m.

"Dios mio," she said.

Twenty-one hours to go.

She reached for her phone and redialed the lawyer.

Posted by at September 26, 2011 7:13 PM

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