U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is set to deport a double-amputee Honduran man without his prosthetic arm on Friday, and unless lawmakers intervene, his lawyers say, the U.S. government is sending the man back to a life-threatening situation.
Lawyers for 36-year-old Victor Antonio Valladares Diaz fear that this will mean death. “The disabled are easy targets—he literally can’t run,” Matthew Hoppock, one of Valladares Diaz’s attorneys, told the Daily Beast.
Valladares Diaz and his family first arrived in the United States in 1998, when he was 16. They were granted temporary protected status after fleeing from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. But in 2010, his status was “discontinued without notice,” the Daily Beast reports, and he was sent back to Honduras, where he faced violence from gangs.
Valladares Diaz sought to reunite with his mother and sister in Florida, returning briefly in 2014, but his request for asylum was denied. He tried again in 2015, but along the perilous journey, his left arm and leg were crushed under the wheels of a train. He spent two years recovering at a Mexican hospital, then crossed into the U.S. in 2017 at a port of entry in Texas, where he requested asylum. He passed the credible fear interview, in which officials assess whether an individual has established that returning home would result in persecution or danger. But rather than being released to his family in Florida, ICE detained Valladares Diaz in a detention center run by a private company accused of a slew of human rights violations. Valladares Diaz has been stuck there for more than a year, without his prosthetics.
One of his attorneys, Alicia Perez, told the Daily Beast of the abuses he suffered in prison and by ICE:
“When he was tied up in the back of a transport vehicle, his prosthetic arm was damaged, and it was taken from him,” Perez said. “To this day, it has not yet been returned.”
After his prosthetic leg was taken by ICE agents for repair, Valladares Diaz was given a crutch designed for use by elderly, two-legged people. Despite making numerous complaints, his leg was not returned to him for more than five months, and he was forced to use a wheelchair. In the meantime, he was written up for disciplinary violations after not being able to stand during head count.
“When he didn’t get up to stand in line for counts, an officer wrote a complaint about him, even though he could be seen there lying in his bed, because he doesn’t have access to his leg,” Perez said. “He actually got a disciplinary complaint for not standing up in line for count!”
Valladares Diaz is running out of options: unless the Supreme Court intervenes, or a member of Congress pressures ICE, his lawyers say Valladares Diaz will be deported on Friday without his prosthetic arm.
The government shutdown further exacerbates Villadares Diaz’s precarious situation. “Usually ICE would coordinate with with us—normally that person would tell us logistics about when he would be removed,” Hoppock said. “Unfortunately, that person is being furloughed.” The Daily Beast notes that, upon reaching out for comment, they received an automated response from ICE asking to “resubmit your query upon the government re-opening.”