Monday, April 9, 2018 | 6:30 p.m.
An Las Vegas immigrant mother’s appointment for permanent U.S. residence turned near deportation came full circle over the weekend as Cecilia Gomez returned to her family after 10 days in federal custody.
With her sons by her side Monday, Gomez sobbed as she described the surprise of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers during a March 27 appointment to get her green card, and the happiness she felt to be back home.
“This inspires me and motivates me to continue fighting to become a permanent resident and remain with my family,” Gomez said in a prepared statement in Spanish at the Las Vegas Workers Center, 1948 E. Charleston Blvd.
Authorities say Gomez was targeted with a deportation notice in 1998 after the likely result of a notario scam — a frequent crime in Nevada where unlicensed notaries public pose as attorneys to swindle undocumented immigrants into paying them for promised federal permission to stay in the U.S.
Notaries have the legal authority of licensed attorneys in many Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico. But using a notario in the U.S. for immigration services is against the law.
Because notarios do not list the immigrants’ actual addresses in their applications, Gomez did not receive notices to appear in immigration court 20 years ago, nor was she aware of a deportation notice shortly after, her family said. When her eldest son Yonathan — a U.S. citizen — turned 21, Gomez filed for permanent residency as a dependent of his. When she arrived at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices last month for her green card, she was instead arrested for the outstanding deportation warrant, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said.
Gomez endured trips to El Paso, Texas; Denver and Nogales, Arizona, before spending most of last week jailed in Eloy, Arizona, said attorney Laura Barrera of the UNLV Immigration Center. Gomez was released to her family on Friday on condition that she appear for regular check-ins with ICE officials while her eligibility to remain in the U.S. is heard in court.
Gomez — who was joined by her sons Ricardo Avelar-Gomez, 18, Eric Avelar-Gomez, 13, Barrera, Las Vegas Workers Center Director Bliss Requa-Trautz, and several activists — praised the Las Vegas community for coming together to secure her release. Requa-Trautz said activist organizations like the Workers Center and Make the Road Nevada and local elected officials all assisted, although she refused to name specific politicians.
“If it weren’t for these people, I would not be here now,” Gomez said. “I would be one of the millions that have been ripped apart from their families.”
Speaking off script, Ricardo Gomez-Avelar echoed that sentiment.
“Some of you don’t know us,” he said, motioning to television cameras before holding his hand to his heart. “But the fact you stood with us and supported us means a lot to me and my family.”