HOUSTON (CN) – With a tumor growing in her breast, a Pakistani woman who’s lived in Texas with a spotless record for 23 years could not persuade a federal judge to free her from an immigration jail to get medical treatment.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas did, however, tell Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take Roshan Akbar Momin from the Houston Processing Center, a private immigration prison, to see her Houston doctor, and then return her to prison.
Momin, 48, a convenience store clerk, lives with her husband and their two U.S. citizen sons, both born in America, in a suburban Houston home they bought in 2011, according to her federal habeas petition.
ICE arrested her in late October last year, on a 1994 deportation order. Momin had just received test results that a tumor in her breast was likely malignant and doctors recommended she have it removed.
Her attorney Simon Azar-Farr said in an interview that Momin entered the United States at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in December 1993 with a passport and a visitor’s visa that an immigration inspector suspected was counterfeit.
Momin says in the habeas petition that the inspector gave her a “form I-546 Order to Appear — Deferred Inspection,” telling her to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Chicago, listing the date and time of the appointment “To Be Determined.”
“At that point she goes to Houston, joins her husband and they never hear anything,” Azar-Farr said. “They hear no news at all and life goes on. She has two children, no criminal record, works as a cashier, supports the family, helps the husband, until one of the children reaches age 21.”
The Immigration and Naturalization Service no longer exists; its functions were absorbed by three branches of the Department of Homeland Security, which the government formed in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
After turning 21, Momin’s eldest son filed a petition for an alien relative for her with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The government says such petitions promote family reunification. The beneficiary can obtain legal permanent residence and get a green card.
Azar-Farr said the government approved the petition for Momin, but when she went to a CIS office for an interview in late summer 2016 she was blindsided by the 22-year-old deportation order.
“CIS told her, ‘Ma’am we can’t give you your residency because there’s an order of exclusion against you. You were put in exclusion proceedings in 1994, the year after you came.’ And she said, ‘Well, I never got notice that I was supposed to go to court.’ And they said, ‘Well, it’s here, we can’t give you residency,’” Azar-Farr said.
A few weeks later, before she could schedule surgery to remove the lump in her breast, ICE agents went to her house and arrested her.
She says in the Feb. 22 habeas petition that her continued detention violates her right to due process.
Momin says she didn’t know about the removal order because she never got notice of the removal hearing that a Houston immigration judge issued in February 1994, because it was sent to the wrong address and returned to the INS as undeliverable.