CHICAGO — After about five months in federal immigration detention, a teenager who had settled in Crystal Lake after escaping alleged gang death threats in her native Honduras was released from custody on bond Thursday as she continues to seek asylum in the U.S.
“I didn’t think I was ever getting out. … I’m forever grateful,” Meydi Guzman Rivas, the Crystal Lake Central High School student, said in Spanish. “It was hard, I was not ready for this. I didn’t think this would happen to me.”
Holding a bouquet of red and purple flowers, Guzman Rivas embraced school counselor Sara Huser outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in the South Loop. Both women spoke through muffled tears. The 18-year-old wore gray sweatpants and a light jacket. Nearby friends held a black trash bag that held her belongings.
“She’s coming home with us, we’re truly blessed,” said Huser, whose family will house the teen. “We are thrilled for her to join our family and come back to her life.”
Guzman Rivas was on track to graduate in the spring until a missed immigration hearing landed her in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in October, her attorney, Nate Reyes, said Wednesday. The teen plans to return to school next week and hopes to eventually become a doctor. As she resumes her studies, it was unknown if she’ll be able to graduate on time, the family said.
She fled to the United States in 2018 with her father from Honduras after gang members made death threats against their family, according to attorneys. The pair settled in Crystal Lake until the missed court date last February, and an order of removal was filed for their deportation. They went to court days later and learned the hearing was rescheduled for October. At that hearing, they were separated and taken into ICE custody.
A judge ruled Wednesday the 18-year-old could be released on bond, ICE officials confirmed Thursday. Guzman Rivas had been detained at an ICE facility in Pulaski County in southern Illinois.
Huser and her husband are taking Guzman Rivas into their Crystal Lake home to live. The family held a party Thursday night, and invited her friends and teachers for pizza.
After showering, and with her hair in a loose braid, the teen, barely 5 feet tall, came down the stairs to cheers, tears and hugs.
With tears in her eyes, she hugged her friends, teachers, lawyers and other members of the Crystal Lake community who have faithfully supported her.
Guzman Rivas said being in custody was “really bad and sad,” but she remained strong because of her faith and hope in God and her “family,” referring to those who came to the Husers’ home Thursday night, some bearing gifts, to welcome her back.
John Huser said his wife plans to take Guzman Rivas to a hair or spa appointment. The ultimate goal is to give her back a sense of normalcy, Sara Huser said.
“I have the heart of a mother and a counselor,” Huser said. “I have four kids. This is an opportunity to support someone who needs and deserves the help.”
The family said they have not heard of any concerns about Guzman Rivas living with them.
Guzman Rivas’ father has different legal representation and is being held at an ICE facility in Kankakee. The 18-year-old’s mom and siblings are believed to still be in Honduras. It is unclear why they did not come to the U.S., attorneys said in December.
With tears brimming, she said she has not spoken to her father since being detained by ICE.
“I’m really worried,” she said of her father’s situation.
A follow-up court date for the teen has not been announced, according to attorneys.
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