Bautista-Mayorga’s partner, Luis, who had been taking care of Noah for about a month while Kenia was detained at a county jail, would be there to see the two off. ICE had told the lawyers that the meeting would happen in the parking lot of the office, and that “if Luis chose to go to the ICE office he would be able to say goodbye to Kenia and that everything would kind of happen out in the open,” they said.
Reporters — Bautista-Mayorga’s case had received some press previously — some with cameras, including a film crew working on an immigration-related documentary, and activists had shown up to witness the proceeding in the parking lot.
The 3 a.m. encounter ended up with the family in tears, Martinez with a fractured foot after she says she was shoved by an ICE agent, and Luis detained and placed in removal proceedings, the lawyers say, another tale that illustrates the complexity and potent brew of emotions swirling around the country’s byzantine immigration processes in a tense political climate. Though the Trump administration has ended its practice of family separations through an executive order, the spotlight on the vagaries of the immigration system remain as the Republican-controlled Congress struggles to settle upon more concrete legislative resolutions.
Martinez and Galicia, who spoke to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, after a video that appeared to show one of them getting pushed to the ground went viral, said that when they arrived at the ICE facility, there was no van waiting for them, as they had expected. The two ICE officers inside the building called them and told them to bring Noah into the office.
“We said that’s not what we agreed to,” Martinez said. Asked if a van could pull around to adhere to the original plan, “ICE officers told us there was no other option,” she added.
Luis did not want to leave the child, who had yet to be reunited with his mother, the lawyers said. The group was approaching the building’s entrance when an ICE officer “put his hands on Luis,” who was holding the child, and forced him into the lobby.
“So as Megan and I were walking next to Luis, we were asking [the officer to] please let him go, he’s not the client . . . we can hold Noah and we can walk Noah into the ICE lobby,” Martinez said. “He said no, you don’t have any option, there’s no more negotiation.”
After Luis and Noah went in, the two lawyers said one of the ICE agents pushed both of them out of the door, shut and locked it. Martinez fell to the ground, rolling her ankle and, as she would learn later after checking into a hospital emergency room, fracturing one of her metatarsal bones.
Video captures the tense encounter outside of the office from afar. The lawyers walk with Luis toward the building as activists sing. When they get to the door, the women can be heard saying, “What, no. No!” One of them falls suddenly to the ground, appearing to have been pushed.
That was not the end of the saga.
Martinez said one agent later came back and brought her into the building, where she found Kenia, Luis and Noah “all hugging and crying, very traumatized by what they had seen.”
Kenia and Noah were deported without their suitcases, their lawyers told reporters, displaying the luggage they said they had brought with them to the ICE facility.
Martinez said she was locked in a room with two ICE officers, including one who told her that the bleeding injury on her leg was “not severe enough” to merit a first aid kit when she asked.
After about 40 minutes, an ambulance came and took her to a hospital emergency room, where she had X-rays done on her foot. She appeared at the news conference with crutches.
“I think that this just displays that separation of families is not just happening at the border. It’s happening on the interior, too,” Martinez said. “What we were able to highlight with videos today and this morning happens a hundred-, a thousand-fold all over the country.”
“With cameras rolling and 20 or 30 activists watching, ICE does this,” Galicia said. “Imagine what they’re doing when nobody’s watching.”
Martinez said that Bautista-Mayorga’s deportation case stems from a police stop when the family was driving in Missouri. The police officers, after asking the family for their documentation, found that Bautista-Mayorga had a previous removal order, stemming from a missed court hearing.
“Early this morning an incident occurred at the Kansas City ICE office while ICE ERO officers were attempting to reunite a mother with a family member. We take any allegations against ICE personnel very seriously and are looking into the matter,” an ICE official said in a statement. “Until a review of the documentary evidence is completed, ICE can issue no further public comment on the matter.”