Melissa, a Jamaican-born mother of two, has been in detention since 2010. Eleven years ago, Melissa pled guilty to simple assault and obstruction of justice charge for breaking up a conflict between a security guard and her boyfriend in a Virginia Beach skating rink after their belongings were stolen.
Melissa served time for her offence back in 2002. But she did not know at the time that, for non-citizens, an obstruction of justice misdemeanor counts as an aggravated felony. When she tried to apply for citizenship in 2009, she was placed into deportation proceedings. More than a decade after first having contact with the criminal legal system, Melissa was forced to leave behind her family and her 5-year-old twins — one of whom is autistic and requires especial attention. She is currently fighting deportation.