Family fights ICE for custody

A Buda family’s fight to get an undocumented relative out of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody continues, even as they believe her mental health is quickly deteriorating.

Janelie Rodriguez, 25, is currently being held at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall. According to family members, Rodriguez suffers from a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are impaired and she loses contact with reality.

According to Rodriguez’s family, she is not receiving the medical attention and medication she needs, based on her condition during visitation.

“I asked to be put in my own area away from other people because of my psychosis,” Rodriguez told her family when they visited her in Pearsall. “Right now they have me in a holding area with 16 other people.”

The lack of medical treatment at the facility is starting to take a toll on Rodriguez’s body and she is often toying with the thought if the fight is worth the trouble. Without her medication, she suffers from frequent hallucinations, which was evident during her family’s visitation.

Mano Amiga, an immigration activist group in San Marcos, is working with an immigration attorney and Rodriguez’s family to get her the help she needs.

Everyone detained by ICE will eventually receive a court date after at least a month’s time, said Karen Munoz, co-founder of Mano Amiga. But Rodriguez needs help now and the organization is looking to see if her lack of medical treatment is legal, she said.

Rodriguez was placed into custody in January on a felony warrant stemming from an October 2017 incident where she bit a law enforcement officer. However, the felony charges were dropped in early July by District Judge Bill Henry.

Rodriguez’s case is similar to a recent incident in Austin where an undocumented resident was arrested after a mental episode led to aggression towards law enforcement. Austin resident Tania Silva, 21, now faces a felony charge and possible deportation.

“We are seeing a multitude of issues throughout the state that goes beyond the scope of just a broken immigration system,” Munoz said. “People are being denied medical treatment for their mental illnesses. Things are getting worse every single day.”

If Rodriguez loses her immigration hearing, she could potentially be deported to Mexico; Rodriguez emigrated to the United States when she was only three years old. 

Enrique Rodriguez, Janelie’s stepbrother, said his sister looked pale during their visit to Pearsall and was having trouble articulating speech to her family. It was evident that her hallucinations are being exacerbated without her medication, Enrique said.

“She looked very cold and anxious,” Enrique said. “It’s clear that she isn’t well.”

Munoz said instead of having her detained with the general population in Pearsall, Rodriguez should have the opportunity to stay at home and await her hearing where she can have access to her medical needs.

“It’s overwhelming when you step back and realize that this is happening to people in our community,” Munoz said. “The fight will continue and what I’ve learned is that we need to step back from individual cases and push towards a change in policy. Our work needs to shift.”

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