Assia is a mother of two and domestic violence survivor who has experienced firsthand the double punishment of incarceration and deportation. Every day, she hopes to reunite with her children in the United States.
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Assia is a Panamanian immigrant who arrived in the United States as a teenager.
When Assia was 15 years old, she moved to Queens, New York with her mother and sister. She didn’t speak any English and struggled to fit in and communicate with other teenagers her age.
A few years later, she met her then-partner who later revealed that he was 20 years older than her.
He began to control Assia, telling her how to dress and who she can spend time with, including her family.
In 2004, Assia was incarcerated for actions she took as a young person under the coercive influence of her then-partner.
She was given a sentence of 18 years to life.
At the time, she had 2 children, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old.
While Assia was incarcerated, she has worked as a translator, a caregiver in the Children’s Center caring for people during pregnancy, and as a teacher in classes focused on prenatal care.
Photo Credit: The New York Times
She remained actively involved in her own children’s life, despite her abusive ex-partner’s attempt to withhold access to their children.
After spending 15 years incarcerated, Assia’s sentence was shortened under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA).
Although the DVSJA is meant to benefit survivors, it leaves immigrant survivors behind because it doesn’t erase their convictions, which ICE can still use to deport them. Assia asked for a pardon when she was released, but her pardon application is still pending.
Instead of being released to reunite with her family and children in the U.S., New York State handed her directly over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where they quickly deported her to Panama despite the fact that no court had yet ruled on her claim that her life was in danger in Panama.
Instead of being released to reunite with her family and children in the U.S., New York State handed her directly over to ICE where they quickly deported her to Panama despite the fact that no court had yet ruled on her claim that her life was in danger in Panama.
The New Way Forward Act would create an opportunity for Assia to come home and be with her children and family in the U.S.