A Crystal Lake Central High School student who came to the U.S. with her father as they escaped violence in Honduras was released on bond Thursday after being unexpectedly detained during an immigration hearing last year.
"I’m really happy," said Meydi Guzman Rivas in Chicago after four months in a detention facility in southern Illinois. "So thankful for all the people who worked for me and helped me."
A team of lawyers and the Crystal Lake community, including school counselor Sara Huser, have rallied to Guzman Rivas' support. Now the teen will get a chance to finish high school in Crystal Lake and live with Huser and her family.
"I’m truly, truly blessed and so very happy that she is going to come join my family, come back to Crystal Lake, get back to school, back to her life," Huser said.
Guzman Rivas' father remains in another detention center with another legal team. Her attorneys said they are preparing for her next hearing to hopefully get her a more permanent and legal status.
Guzman Rivas arrived in the U.S. in June 2018 and had been attending school in the northwest Chicago suburb, where she was expected to graduate in May.
According to the Illinois Education Association, Guzman Rivas was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as both she and her father attended a scheduled court hearing in October. At the time, the pair were told they missed a court appearance in February of 2019.
School officials and area residents started raising money to help pay for Guzman Rivas’ legal defense and other expenses during her detention.
“We can do better for our students. What’s happening to Meydi is wrong. She came to this country to escape violence in her home country of Honduras,” Sara Huser, who works as a counselor at the school, said in a statement. “We should wrap our arms around these children, not throw them in a jail cell. It’s unspeakable.”
An area attorney said she was able to communicate with Guzman Rivas in Spanish and inform her that her “teachers and community were working to help her and notarize a power of attorney so additional paperwork could be executed on her behalf in the future.”
“Because we care, we are trying to help a girl who fled her homeland after being gang raped and told she would become the property of that gang,” attorney Beth Vonau said. “She ran here to freedom, as a minor, with her father. She has worked hard in school and she deserves to graduate with the rest of her class in May.”
Guzman Rivas was ultimately transferred to a detention center in Pulaski County in southern Illinois, but was granted bond Wednesday and is expected to be released Thursday. Her case is now being handled pro-bono by attorneys Nate Reyes and Kevin Bruning.
“We took this case on without a second thought. This is about doing what’s right for this young woman. We are hopeful the judge will release her from the detention center, so she can come back home to the Crystal Lake community where she has a support system,” Reyes said in a statement.
Huser said she planned to pick up the teen student in Chicago.
“The journey is not over as her case still needs to be determined and asylum granted, but the fact that she has been released and will be allowed to return to school in the mean time is a huge win,” Huser wrote on a fundraising page.