As a young Woman, Keinada had dreams in mind to build a future that her family who migrated all the way from Indonesia worked so hard to build. Just weeks before her college years, another step closer towards that future they had been striving for, Keinada is pulled over with her father on the side of the road. On her way to a college tour, what happened that day was not at all how she envisioned this dream of hers to begin.
Only two years old when arriving in the U.S, alongside her family who claimed religious persecutions, Keinada had no criminal record.
Living in Denver, Colorado under a tourist VISA, Keinada and her parents Miko Andereas and Evyna Halim filed for asylum in 2007. The asylum claim was rejected, In response, the family appealed the decision a year later, but that too was rejected. This led to the issuing of final deportation orders.
But the government did not act upon this order for many years, and later even approved a sponsorship petition filed in 2011 by her aunt, who is a U.S citizen.
During that day, Keinada states that her father was hyperventilating as they were forced to park on the side of the road by the ICE officers. At that very moment, her father already knew those sirens, and those officers that had stopped them were not mere police. They were in fact ICE officers, from immigration.
Keinada was confused about how they were able to track them down. In an interview with PBS Rocky Mountain, Keinada says the officer was able to track her through her social media. Afterwards, they confirm that the arrest was a follow up to their deportation orders from 10 years ago. “The officer told us that we were being arrested because we had deportation orders back in 2008.” Says Keinada to PBS.
“I felt like a criminal…I felt like I was being punished,” said Keinada in an interview with PBS. Keinada and her family always wanted to be citizens, it was their dream to be a part of this country. Circumstances made that difficult for them, and their path to become legal citizens were denied.
Unaware that they were still at risk for deportation more than ten years later, the government enforced the order in 2018, as Keinada and her father were on their way to that college tour.
Keinada and her father were booked and held at the privately-operated immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado.
After being admitted to the facility, Keinada’s first phone call was to one of her high school teachers who had connections to the University of Denver’s immigration law clinic. They help provide free representation for people detained in Aurora. Unlike criminal defendants, immigration detainees are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one.
Keinada’s mother was not a citizen either. She was afraid of visiting the facility in thoughts of being detained. Instead, they relied on video calls.
The father and daughter were admitted into different holding cells, and they were only able to see each other very seldom. Her father was quarantined for a period of time due to one of his cell members contracting chicken pox.
Keinada said there times she contemplating about going back home, to allow the process of deportation to follow through, for the time inside those cells, away from her mother and father, away from her friends and loved ones, was only making her suffer. Keinada and her father were detained for over two months. “I remember calling my mom, I think like the first week of being detained, like, ‘Mom, let’s just go home. Let’s just go! I’d rather go to Indonesia and be together than be separated like this…” she said to PBS.
After working with Christopher Lasch, the director of the DU immigration law clinic, the students assisting Keinada and her father were able to submit an argument against the federal court’s ruling. This resulted in the court delaying the final deportation order and issuing their release after 71 days in the ICE facility.
That day, Keinada jumped out of her bed, quickly grabbed her things. She was very excited, to finally be able to physically touch her mother and father, and embrace them. Before that, she first hugged her friends that she made in the facility goodbye, and they were all clapping and cheering her as she left. According to the other girls, she says that it is a custom amongst them to cheer on the ones that are able to make it out.
In the lobby, Keinada reunites with her father. After months of being apart, she rushes to him, embracing him immediately. “It felt like a movie” Keinada says.
Keinada’s life was difficult after returning home. After returning home, Keinada had a difficult time adjusting to her everyday life once again. She became a lot more cautious, a perfectionist even. Blaming herself for small mistakes, for she felt like she could not afford any. The Andereas’ are no longer in danger of being detained, and are currently working their way through the process of obtaining permanent residency status. Now, Keinada is graduating University, and continuing the pursuit that her and her family have always dreamed of.
According to a study done by Syracuse University, ICE detention centers held 24,944 detainees as of April 23, 2023, with 56.7% of those people having no criminal record. Majority of these people are men from Mexico or Central America. Within this study according to the American immigration council, amongst this population of men, about 17 percent of them are under the age of 18.
While being detained, some Asylum seekers remain in custody for months and even years. All in the meantime waiting for their cases to either be heard of appealed, despite the fact that international refugee and international humanitarian law establish that asylum seekers should not be detained, as they have not committed a crime, but rather are exercising their human right to seek asylum.
For these refugees and immigrants who seek asylum face the fear of being persecuted back home. These situations are often brushed aside due to the complicated immigration system that this country holds. Some childhood arrivals, like Keinada, have no memory of their birthplace, and may no longer speak the language or have social ties to help ease the transition. On top of that, countries of origin rarely provide assistance to those repatriating outside of an official multilateral repatriation program.
Often the ignorance of how the media portrays these families and their situation, clouds the truth of what these people have going on behind curtains. Keinada only wanted a future that is granted to every other young adult and even children who have the papers and numbers that she lacks. Oftentimes we take advantage of the things that are given to us as a birthright, whereas to many scared individuals, are not given to them as theirs. Keinada is now currently safe from any danger of being deported. Though after what she had to endure, fear is still in her mind, for now anything is a possibility. A girl who was excited for her first year of college, stripped of that innocence, replaced with a fear that any day her family and her life here in the U.S can be taken away from her. This has only been one of millions of stories regarding the lives of those in danger of being deported. The U.S immigration system is widely recognized as broken. How many lives hang in the balance?