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Asylum seeker is granted bond, allowing her to seek care for brain tumor

DALLAS -- An immigration judge granted bond Thursday to a Salvadoran woman seeking asylum in the United States, allowing her to leave an immigration detention facility to seek treatment for a brain tumor.

Sara Beltran Hernandez’s family in New York posted her $15,000 bond after the hearing and she was released late Thursday afternoon from the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, south of Fort Worth, an Amnesty International official said. 

Dallas immigration attorney Fatma Marouf holds up a bond order in front of the federal building after leaving immigration court in Dallas, Thursday, March 2, 2017, from a federal immigration judge for Sara Beltran Hernandez. Claudia Lauer, AP

“She’s going to get medical treatment hopefully in New York. She might get checked out here first to make sure she’s OK to travel. Then she’ll be treated there,” Beltran Hernandez’s lawyer, Fatma Marouf, said after the hearing in Dallas.

Amnesty officials said later Thursday that Beltran Hernandez was being seen by a doctor to make sure she would be OK to make the flight to New York. 

Beltran Hernandez has been seeking asylum in the U.S. for almost a year and a half, saying she can’t return to El Salvador because of the risk of domestic violence and threats of gang violence specific to her family. Beltran Hernandez has two small children in El Salvador who would be allowed to join her if she is granted asylum. 

On Feb. 10, lawyers said Beltran Hernandez collapsed while talking to another detainee. Immigration agents took her to a Fort Worth-area hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and remained for almost two weeks. 

U.S. immigration officials said last week that she was returned to a Texas detention center after her time in the hospital.

On Feb. 24, Amnesty International launched a campaign urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 26-year-old Beltran Hernandez “so she can obtain urgent medical treatment and be with her family.” The organization said she had been detained for 15 months.

Her attorneys have said they had trouble visiting her and had difficulty reaching her by phone. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials have said she was able to speak by phone with her family and her attorney of record while at the hospital. 

“Sara never should have been held for so long in the first place, let alone with a medical issue,” Eric Ferrero of Amnesty International USA said in a new release on Thursday.. “It is unconscionable to treat people fleeing violence and danger as if they are criminals.”  

Amnesty International declared her release a victory.

Marouf said a specialist Monday confirmed that Beltran Hernandez has a large tumor on her pituitary gland. She said it was determined to not be cancerous and did not need to be immediately removed. 

Marouf said the doctor recommended that the woman be monitored because the tumor had hemorrhaged, but was no longer bleeding, and that she return for scans every six weeks. She and the other attorneys said they were concerned that the necessary level of monitoring was not being done at the detention center’s medical facility.

“I think she is just trying to absorb it all. I think she’s going to be overwhelmingly happy to be with her family again. She really cries because she misses her family a lot,” Marouf said.

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