I’m in a waiting room in a large courthouse in San Francisco. Immigration court. Sitting next to me is Magdalena Martinez. She’s here for her mom: Bertha Mejia, from El Salvador. Bertha’s undocumented.
In 2011, immigration officers came to Mejia’s home in Oakland. There was raid in the neighborhood. Martinez remembers that morning.
“I got a phone call from my sister, Vanessa, saying that immigration had come and picked my mom up. So I rushed to my mom’s home and, yeah, she wasn’t here,” says Martinez.
Here’s her sister, Vanessa Madrigal, was there when officers approached her mother’s home.
“They came and knocked on the door, so they asked for identification and as my mom gave them the identification she stepped out, and as soon as she stepped out, they grabbed here and arrested her and said, ‘Call immigration.’”
Mejia was one of several people arrested that day. That was nearly two years ago. Ever since, she’s fought to remain in the US, from a jail used for immigrant detainees that’s hours away.
Madrigal says they hope the judge will let Mejia fight deportation from outside a cell and rejoin the family.
“She’s the caretaker for Pablo, my sister’s son, and for my daughter, Jasmine,” says Madrigal. “So, they spent a lot of time with her.”
We see Mejia walk into the courtroom, ushered by a guard. She is 54 years old, petite, with curly hair. She wears an orange uniform and has shackles on her ankles and wrists.