MARYSVILLE — Bernarda Pineda planned to be on a plane Monday night, bound for Honduras.
She booked the one-way flight after she was told last month that she was being deported. Her three daughters, ages 9, 11 and 14, were getting ready to move to Chicago to live with their father. Bernarda said she couldn’t take them with her to Honduras, a dangerous country she fled 12 years ago.
“That is the ultimate sacrifice of a parent,” said Alexandra Lozano, a Renton immigration attorney who is representing Pineda. “She knows her daughters could be subjected to the same horrors she went through.”
Pineda didn’t board that plane Monday night. Instead, Lozano is helping her seek new appeals.
Last week, Pineda hired Lozano with money raised through a GoFundMe account. The fundraising effort was led by Barbara McKinney, who has taught Pineda’s two youngest daughters at Kellogg Marsh Elementary.
“I really want people to know how powerful their support has been,” McKinney said. “We won round one. We’re still fighting.”
The teacher stepped in after one of her third-grade students, Pineda’s youngest daughter, came to her in tears because her mom was being deported. McKinney learned that Pineda had permission to work in the U.S., a driver’s license and a Social Security number. She’s been employed at a business that does stone and brick work. Pineda keeps papers in a pink folder documenting her regular check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It was a shock to learn she was being deported, Pineda previously told The Daily Herald.
Lozano filed motions to halt the deportation and reopen Pineda’s case.
“ICE has stated that they are not going to take any enforcement action while we let the courts decide about her pending motions,” Lozano said Tuesday. “However, it’s not enough. We have to file a T visa immediately. It’s a path to lawful permanent residence, and after that she can seek citizenship.”
The T visa is for victims of human trafficking. Pineda is a survivor, Lozano said. It started when she was a child in Honduras.
McKinney knew Pineda had fled violence, but didn’t know the extent until recently. She asked for Pineda’s permission to share some of it on the fundraising website.
“Without going into the confidential and painful details, she was horrifically physically and emotionally abused by those close to her and others whom she had never met before,” McKinney wrote. “Her only existence was to work to provide for the basic needs of her siblings and the insatiable criminal habits and behaviors of the adults around her.”
Pineda arrived in the U.S illegally with her oldest daughter, then 2, in 2006. That year, she failed to show up to a hearing in San Antonio. Lozano is seeking to reopen the case there. The reasons Pineda did not attend are legally compelling and merit consideration by the court, she said.
Pineda previously said she likely would live with her parents in a small apartment upon returning to Honduras. She wouldn’t be safe there, Lozano said.
“Bernarda is very fearful of returning to Honduras. She has a legally valid claim for asylum,” Lozano said.
Pineda has an electronic monitor on her ankle and must check in regularly with immigration enforcement during the legal proceedings.
Lozano said she is handling a number of cases similar to Pineda’s, with clients who fled violence and have been complying with ICE check-ins and documentation for years.
Pineda’s is “not even close” to an isolated story, she said.
The GoFundMe page, which has brought in nearly $13,000, remains active. The goal is to raise another $4,000 to cover the expenses of filing for a T visa, McKinney said. The visa also would help Pineda’s oldest daughter. The two youngest girls were born in the U.S.
Lozano said she found other issues with Pineda’s deportation. In ICE’s denial of Pineda’s previous request to stay in the U.S., the agency cited a 2015 judge’s order, but Lozano hasn’t found any such order. Pineda’s previous attorney did file a request to delay deportation, but a judge never saw it, she said.
ICE never answered questions about Pineda’s case submitted by the newspaper March 5.
McKinney hopes Pineda’s story is a warning to others facing deportation to look closely at their cases.
Pineda’s oldest daughter is turning 15 in June. They’ve started talking about plans for her quinceanera, a traditional Latin American celebration for girls on their 15th birthday.
“They’re dreaming again. Planning. Living life again,” McKinney said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.