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Family advocates for undocumented Buda woman’s release

Concerns about the welfare of an undocumented Buda woman in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody is leading her family to advocate for her release.

Buda resident Enrique Rodriguez worries that Janelie Rodriguez, his stepsister, isn’t receiving the proper medical treatment for mental issues she is experiencing, which he believes would be better administered at home.

Enrique, along with Janet Rodriguez, Janelie’s mother, and Ashley Vaca, Janelie’s niece, said she was “pale” and was going through psychological episodes when they visited Janelie at the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall.

Janelie Rodriguez, 25, was placed into custody in January on a felony warrant stemming from an October 2017 incident, where she bit a law enforcement officer. While the felony charges were dropped in early July, Hays County authorities turned Janelie, who has lived in Buda since her family immigrated to the area when she was three years old, over to ICE custody.

Enrique Rodriguez said Janelie can “hear voices” and that she should “be with us because of her mental health issues.” Enrique also worries about Janelie’s overall welfare, citing a video he saw of other people detained in ICE facilities who had gotten into fights.

Janet Rodriguez, Janelie’s mother, said her daughter has not slept well during her stay. Janet, Enrique and Vaca don’t believe she has been receiving medications, except for her inhaler.

“She’s not supposed to be there. They’re taking a risk on her life,” Enrique said. “I think if they think about it, with her medical condition, she is supposed to be treated more safely.”

Karen Muñoz, a representative with Mana Amiga, said Janelie is sleeping in a dorm with other detainees, “even though they (ICE) have been told that is not what’s best for her.” Muñoz added the facility was “uncomfortable,” with bright lights and was constantly cold.

ICE officials told Muñoz there wasn’t enough room at the Pearsall center and there were not enough beds to keep Janelie separated.

“That’s not a significant answer and that’s not good enough for us,” she said.

On July 19, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett said in a statement he doesn’t “believe that ICE is equipped to provide” Janelie the mental health treatment she requires. Doggett requested Janelie’s release in order to seek better treatment.

“And deporting her will certainly not help her get any treatment. She doesn’t need detention; she needs treatment to get well, “Doggett said.

Muñoz said members of Mano Amiga and Janelie’s family don’t trust ICE in keeping Janelie safe.

“We’ve seen ICE not treat people properly and neglect giving people medical care and we have seen people die in ICE custody,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz believes Janelie’s case could continue to expand a distrust among undocumented residents toward law enforcement. It could keep residents who are victims of crime or domestic violence from reaching out for help or assistance.

Muñoz also believes Janelie is facing three “broken systems” – mental health, criminal justice and immigration.

“It’s not surprising that these three things are happening to her simultaneously,” Muñoz said. “It’s not surprising she’s not been given treatment at this detention center.”

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