Classmates rally, help release woman from immigration detention

Nicole Acevedo
·3 min read

High school students at a Chicago suburb welcomed back a classmate who spent four months in an immigrant detention center as she battles possible deportation to Honduras.

Students and staff from Crystal Lake Central High School raised over $10,000 on GoFundMe to pay for their classmate Meydi Guzman's release and subsequent legal fees to fight her immigration case.

Guzman, 18, a senior, fled Honduras with her father, Fabio Guzman-Reyes, two years ago seeking U.S. asylum after gang members sexually assaulted Guzman, according to her attorneys, Kevin Bruning and Nathan Reyes.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released Guzman from custody on Thursday after Sara Huser, Guzman's school counselor, posted a $2,000 bond.

“I am really happy and thankful for all the people who helped me,” Guzman told reporters outside a federal building in the Chicago area.

Huser has taken the teen into her home.

"I’m truly, truly blessed and so very happy that she is going to come join my family, come back to Crystal Lake, get back to school, back to her life," Huser said at a press conference.

Both Guzman and her father made it to the U.S.-Mexico border where they were stopped by border patrol agents in 2018. They were released and expected to show up to their immigration court hearings.

The father and daughter missed a Feb. 28, 2019, hearing in Chicago because of a possible mix-up in scheduling paperwork, according to Bruning and Reyes. They appeared in court on Oct. 16, when they were unexpectedly arrested and taken to an immigration detention center in southern Illinois.

“It was very difficult. The truth was I was not prepared for this, I did not think that turning 18 would take me to be in a prison,” Guzman said in Spanish at a press conference .

ICE did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.

Her release means Guzman will return to school and possibly stay on track to graduate with her classmates in May. However, her father is still in ICE custody at the Kankakee County Jail. The county jail has a contract with ICE to house hundreds of detained immigrants.

Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García, D-Ill., conducted a surprise visit to the facility alongside other Latino lawmakers, days before Guzman-Reyes was arrested on Oct. 16, after hearing concerns over the conditions in which detainees were being held, including reports of problems around medical attention.

García told NBC News he was shown "a ‘sanitized’ version of what happens inside." Therefore, it was difficult to "determine if the immigrants had appropriate health care, but we observed that they spent very little time outside and only had access to sunlight by standing under a small skylight in the holding areas."

Concerns over detainees' safety have soared since Dec. 2019 when "ICE weakened safety standards for immigrants in detention, further threatening their health and dignity," said García.

"ICE must be mandated to consult with medical and mental health experts, congressional committees as well as immigrant and health advocates before implementing any new detention standards,” he added.

Reyes and Bruning have filed a petition for asylum on Guzman’s behalf and asked that a judge dismiss the order for Guzman’s deportation, The Associated Press reported.

Both attorneys are handling the case pro bono, NBC's affiliate in Chicago WMAQ reported.

“We took this case on without a second thought. This is about doing what’s right for this young woman,” Reyes said in a statement.

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