Guatemalan mother of two in Knoxville detained during routine ICE check-in


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Guatemalan woman living in Knoxville was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a routine check-in, according to the woman’s lawyer.

Elena Felipe-Mateo, 22, is a mother of two toddlers, 2-year-old and a 5-month-old sons. Her attorney, Rachel Bonano, says Felipe-Mateo was working to gain asylum legally.

Felipe-Mateo came to the U.S. in January 2019, arriving in El Paso, Texas, according to Bonano. She says Felipe-Mateo was detained by ICE in Texas and convicted for illegally entering the U.S.

She was subsequently criminally convicted on a federal charge of illegally entering the U.S. January 22, 2019, according to a statement by ICE.

Pursuant to her conviction, Felipe-Mateo was released from custody on humanitarian grounds due to her status at the time as a pregnant female. The humanitarian factor that led to her release no longer exists and Ms. Felipe-Mateo was taken into ICE custody February 5 pending the outcome of her legal proceedings before the federal immigration courts.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

“She was allowed to do a release on her own recognizance where she was not required to pay an immigration bond,” said Bonano.

Felipe-Mateo entered the U.S. when she was pregnant, she gave birth to a son 5 months ago. ICE citing that as a reason she was detained this week.

Her sons are with their biological father, according to Bonano. They’re living with paternal grandparents in Knox County, who are lawful permanent residents of the U.S.

“What I’m feeling for my children…I’ve been crying a lot and they miss their mother,” said the father to Felipe-Mateo’s children, through an interpreter.

Humanitarian factors and potential mitigating circumstances are considered for every individual encountered by this agency. A decision is then made on a case-by-case basis based upon the totality of the circumstances.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A spokesperson for ICE said they cannot comment on specific cases, beyond the statement provided, but said an important reminder is that detainment is not deportation.


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