A South LA woman spent almost two decades in prison after being convicted of a murder she didn’t commit. Although her conviction was overturned by a California court last year, she didn’t get away with it. Instead, her attorney stated that she was taken into custody by ICE agents and is now being deported to Mexico.
Her lawyer says that this is not common.
He claims that many activists in California tried to stop the state’s handing over prisoners to ICE after they were released. However, he maintains that it continues to occur.
She was convicted of murder and spent nearly 20 years in prison.
Then, a California judge exonerated her, saying she’d finally be free because she didn’t commit the crime.
Sandra Castaneda of South LA is not at home with her family.
She’s now in an immigration detention center across the country facing deportation.
“They let the ICE van in, I watched them load her up and one other woman at the reception center where they receive people and then watched them drive away,”Colby Lenz, a California Coalition advocate, said:
Lenz was in the prison parking lot last year – waiting to pick Castaneda up and take her home on the day she was supposed to be released.
Lenz says ICE sent Sandra to Georgia because that’s where they had an available bed.
Sandra met Lenz while she was in California prison. She later introduced Lenz to her current immigration attorney.
“In Sandra’s case, there simply is no conviction anymore to deport her for,”Anoop Prasad, an attorney for immigration with the Asian Law Caucus stated.
Prasad argues that Castaneda’s case is very unfair because she is a legal permanent resident who no longer has a criminal record and could still be deported back to Mexico.
“The California prison system reported her and called ice. nothing in california law requires them to do that,”Prasad spoke.
Prasad is currently fighting Castaneda’s deportation.
He claims that an immigration judge dismissed the case once, but ICE requested them to reconsider and could appeal a second rejection.
Prasad says Castanedais in a detention center in rural Georgia and hasn’t seen friends or family in almost a year – he’s afraid that’ll take its toll on her.
“When you’re in criminal custody, you know I’ll be getting out on x date. With immigration detention, there’s never an end in sight. “You could be looking at months, you could be looking at years, and I think that really weighs on people mentally and what we’ve seen is a lot of people say, ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ll just get deported,’”Prasad spoke.
ICE officials referred a request for a comment from NBC to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review which did not respond by deadline.