ICE allows Honduran woman with rare blood disorder to stay for one more year

U.S. immigration authorities once again granted a one-year extension to Reina Gómez Ramírez, a Honduran immigrant suffering from cancer.

The woman faces deportation, but alleges that sending her back to the Central American country would be “condemning her to death” because she can’t get the treatment she needs to survive there.

“I am happy. I am very grateful,“ said Gómez Ramírez, sobbing Thursday afternoon as soon as she exited the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility at Miramar, where she presented evidence that her terminal disease, a type of rare cancer called thrombocytopenia, cannot be treated in Honduras.

The morning of her appointment, Gómez Ramírez bid her dog Simon farewell and left her Little Havana home unsure if she would return. She wore a green jacket, a color she said symbolizes hope, and felt anxious, she said.

She took a letter from her physician, Dr. Yonette Paul, who wrote that Gómez Ramírez was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and has since been treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

According to the doctor’s letter, the treatment involves a medicine called hydroxyurea, “which she reports is not found in her country of origin,” Paul wrote. Gómez Ramírez said she takes seven pills a day yet still suffers from a lot of pain.

“Ms. Gómez Ramírez can’t miss a single dose of her medication,“ Paul wrote in the letter. “Otherwise, it would be life threatening.”

Thrombocytopenia refers to an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets (thrombocytes) in the body, which causes bruises, bleeding, intense body pains and blood vomiting, among other symptoms.

“They approved her request to stay. It was very fast. We are all very happy about the news,“ said her lawyer, Maya Ibars, who works with Catholic Legal Services. In the past, attorney Ana Quirós had been managing her case.

Gómez Ramírez said she crossed the Mexico border through Texas in 2005. She decided to flee Honduras after her son, Cristian, was killed at age 16. She requested political asylum but was denied in 2009, she said.

She’s now seeking a humanitarian visa. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, such visas are “an extraordinary measure sparingly used to bring an otherwise inadmissible alien into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”

The woman, originally from Puerto Cortés, a northern Honduran state, received an order of removal in 2012, but has since been granted temporary permits to stay, along with extensions to her work permit and driver’s license.

The 50-year-old, who cleans houses for a living and does activism on the side with the Miami Workers Center, will have to appear again before immigration authorities in a year. Meanwhile, ICE will continue to evaluate her case.

Gómez Ramírez said she already has a degree in social education, but aspires to help children at social risk in South Florida, so she’s planning to go back to school to get the certification she needs.

After she left the ICE office about an hour after entering Thursday, the Honduran immigrant grinned and hugged about 10 of her colleagues from the Miami Workers Center, who accompanied her to her appointment.

While her friends exclaimed, “God is great!” and “We have you one more year, Reina!” her attorney, who stood beside her, leaned in, grabbed her arm and whispered, “Let’s get out of here before they change their minds.”