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Cancer-stricken woman faces second deportation after overseas kidnapping

Gloria Barrera with her immigration attorney Christopher Elmore at a press conference in Chicago on Aug. 3, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Gloria Barrera was deported once.

Then, she was kidnapped by human traffickers while overseas.

And now –– with less than a year to live –– the cancer stricken, middle-aged Melrose Park woman is fighting another deportation.

“I am here asking for clemency and justice only to be able to die with my family,” Barrera, 54, said at a news conference Friday outside the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ downtown office.

“Deportations are a death sentence and must stop. My case is a very clear example that the system is broken…for that reason, it must be abolished.”

Gloria Barrera stands at a press conference in Chicago, IL on August 3, 2018. | Colin Boyle | Sun-Times
Gloria Barrera stands at a press conference in Chicago, IL on August 3, 2018. | Colin Boyle | Sun-Times

Barrera’s entire family –– her husband, three kids and seven grandchildren –– all live in the Chicago area. She is the primary caretaker of two of the grandchildren –– one of whom has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness. Should she be deported, she said her husband and children would have to figure out how to find appropriate care for those children.

If Barrera is sent back to Mexico, she fears dealing with the human traffickers, or her family being harmed by her captors should her loved ones visit her.

Barrera came to the United States in 1984 but was deported to Mexico five years ago after her green card was revoked following her arrest for misdemeanor theft.

Video by Colin Boyle | Ambar Gonzalez, immigration attorney representing Gloria Barrera, and Gloria Barrera speak on August 3, 2

Barrera had poor legal counsel following that incident, according to Christopher Elmore, one of her attorneys.

Barrera was falsely led to believe that she had no option other than deportation and that she would be eligible for another visa after being deported, Elmore said.

Shortly after she was in Mexico, Barrera was kidnapped by human traffickers and held for ransom.

When her abductors forced her to return to the United States, Barrera was detained by ICE agents.

She has been out on bond since 2014.

While Barrera was in detention, she said she began to experience pain in her lower abdomen. She said ICE officials ignored her complaints.

Barrera was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Because of ICE’s inaction, she said, her cancer went unchecked and had progressed to an incurable Stage 4. Doctors have given Barrera less than a year to live.

Elmore is fighting for Barrera to be granted an I-246 Stay of Removal on grounds of her terminal medical condition.

ICE hadn’t reached a decision as of Friday, but will likely decide whether to grant her the amnesty early next week, according to Elmore.

Looking towards long-term solutions, West Suburban Action Project lawyer Ambar Gonzalez is helping Barrera with her application for a T-Visa — a four year visa for those who have been forced into human trafficking.

Gonzalez said Barrera qualified for this visa years ago, but didn’t apply after being misled by poor legal counsel.

“Because (Barrera) qualifies for a T-Visa, ICE should stop this deportation,” Gonzalez said. “It is the right thing to do, and it is the humane thing to do.”

ICE officials were unable to be reached for comment.