I am 27 years old, the mother of two children and came to the U.S. from Honduras in 2012. In that year, plagued by criminal gangs, Honduras had the highest murder rate of any country in the world. My father and two of my uncles, who resisted the gangs in our town, had been killed, and the rest of my family faced grave risk. I and other relatives fled for our lives, finally settling in Key West, where we lived quietly.

In 2017, I was stopped by a local policeman, accused of driving without a license and taken to jail. When family members tried to post bail, they were told I could not be released because federal authorities had placed a “detainer” on me while my immigration status was investigated. For almost four months I was jailed in various detention centers in South Florida  and my children and other loved ones were not allowed to see me. My daughter was five at the time; my son was two. I was then transferred to a detention facility in Pompano Beach, 200 miles from my family. When they were able to make the trip to visit me, they were only allowed to stay for a short time. My children did not understand and cried when they had to leave without me. For a mother, it was extremely hard.

Due to my attorney’s efforts, I was finally released after seven and half months. I learned that the police in Key West had reported me to immigration authorities and that I had been held based on an illegal detainer. I was told that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the continued detention of a person with no warrant issued against them, whose case is simply being investigated, even if that person is not a citizen.

Due to the viciousness of the gangs in Honduras, I and my family are currently in the U.S. under the protection of the Convention Against Torture and we have filed for asylum here. I am very grateful to the people of this country for saving me and my loved ones from the terror we faced in our homeland. The action taken against me by local law enforcement and immigration authorities was painful for me and my children and unnecessary. We pose no danger to our fellow residents. I sincerely hope local officials throughout Florida will ensure that law enforcement agents follow the law and that other immigrant families do not have to suffer what we did.