Refugee with Brain Tumor Endures Immigration Ordeal

Sara Beltrán, a Salvadoran woman suffering from a brain tumor, was released from immigration jail a month ago. She has since reunited with her family in Queens. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Life is not easy for Sara Beltrán, a Salvadoran woman who has a brain tumor and spent 15 days detained in an immigration jail in Texas. Although she has reunited with her parents and is now living in Queens, she still faces obstacles to her recovery and has been unable to regularize her immigration status.

After the organization Amnesty International and Texas immigration attorney Fatma Marouf intervened, her case gained notoriety when it was demonstrated that Beltrán was being denied her basic human rights and adequate medical treatment. The 27- year-old was released after her parents, Octavio Cuba and Esperanza Hernández, paid the $15,000 bond and continued her petition for political asylum.

Even though the family was able to reunite in New York City on March 4, her life in the last few weeks has been far from easy. “I feel bad. I have headaches, I get dizzy and my nose bleeds a lot. I can only take acetaminophen, Tylenol… I don’t feel that the medicine they gave me is good for me,” she told El Diario.

Beltrán says that, while the support she has received from the public renews her hopes, when she remembers all the time she spent detained and the continued rejections from the court resulting from the faulty legal guidance she received, she feels awful and cries often. Her only joy is talking to her children Estéfany and Amílcar every three days. They live with their father in El Salvador.

In New York City, she is receiving the support of pro-immigrant activists and the office of Rep. Joe Crowley (Democrat for Queens and the Bronx), with efforts to improve her access to medical attention at Bellevue Hospital and expedite the approval of visas at the Department of State to allow her 7- and 8-year-old children to be with her during these difficult times.

While there has been some progress, Sara’s parents said that both efforts have been hindered. The young woman’s health is deteriorating quickly as a result of the stress she endured while she was detained and fainted before doctors performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on her. On a positive note, after a long wait she has finally been confirmed for an appointment with a neurosurgeon on April 10.

As for her children’s visas, she has encountered trouble at the Consulate General of El Salvador in New York, where she was informed that the protocol forms required to obtain the necessary legal powers are in short supply. However, sources at the Manhattan-based consulate said that this is false, although they admitted to being swamped with work due to the immigration uncertainty arising from the actions of Donald Trump’s new government.

Issues with lawyers

During a forum on immigration held on March 23 by Rep. Crowley and State Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Sara and her parents offered their testimony and said that, although they have hired three different lawyers – two in Texas and one in New Jersey – and spent more than $11,000, they have not obtained the desired results.

“We hired immigration lawyers a few days after my daughter was detained on Nov. 7, 2015. She had her first court hearing in January, which is why she was looking for an attorney. Someone recommended Jiroko López (Texas), a finance lawyer. I hired her for $1,545, and she promised to get her out of jail on bail. However, that did not happen. She didn’t even fill out the asylum forms the judge gave my daughter,” said Cuba, who works at an auto repair shop.

Beltrán’s father added that they hired New Jersey attorney Marcia Kasdan for the second hearing, paying her $2,500 to reopen his daughter’s case in Texas. They paid $800 to post bail and $950 for an appeal bond, in addition to another $1,000 to prepare more documents and to cover other fees. “Right away, I paid another $1,000. Marcia Kasdan recommended Asma Din to represent her in the asylum case, and that was $1,500. Another appeal was made on December 8, 2016, and that cost $2,000,” said Beltrán’s father.

The family is even considering suing a New Jersey lawyer who said she would take the case despite having a suspended license.

El Diario emailed the three law offices regarding their role in this case, but had received no reply at press time.

In addition, the family said that someone created an online crowdfunding campaign for Beltrán but she never received the money. They are now asking that any donations be deposited in a Chase Bank joint account.

“We know that this person collected around $500, but we have never received it,” lamented Cuba.

The forum organized by Crowley was held at the St. Leo Catholic Academy in Corona, Queens, where more than 200 people were in attendance, including a panel of immigration experts from a number of agencies and organizations and representatives of the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Sanctuary for Families project.

To help Beltrán

People interested in helping with the case may make a donation in the name of Esperanza Hernández and Octavio Cuba to Chase Bank account number 929541274.

She was escaping violence

Sara Beltrán-Hernández (…) crossed the border in November 2015 coming from El Salvador, saying she was escaping domestic and gang violence. It seems that she took too long to submit her asylum application and was issued a detention and deportation order on Jan. 26.

At the [Texas] detention center, Sara fell ill and was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After an initial treatment, she was returned to the detention center.

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