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Delmy Dinora Palencia Gonzales

Delmy Palencia is mother, a member of the Congress of Day Laborers, and a civil rights defender.  She faces deportation after ICE retaliated against her for standing up against racial profiling and abuse of power by local law enforcement.  After Delmy demanded her own freedom and an end to the unconstitutional use of immigration detainers by the notorious New Orleans Sheriff, ICE retaliated against her: they arrested her in her home, humiliated her, and jailed her.

“As women we have to stand up—for our children, our families, our communities, and ourselves,” said Delmy.  “Our families and communities have been traveling a long road to dignity and justice, and we will keep walking no matter what obstacles the criminal justice system and ICE put in our way.  I know that I should not be in jail and I should not be deported for being a good mother and trying to build a better world for my son.”   

Delmy first stood up to resist civil rights violations she faced when the New Orleans Police Department turned a family dispute into a problem of the criminal justice system.[1]  On May 21, 2011, Delmy was first arrested for locking her husband out of the house following a domestic argument.  During the arrest, no police officer could speak to she, her husband, or any witnesses in Spanish.  She spent 45 days in jail separated from her infant before the district attorney reviewed the arrest and dropped all charges against her. 

After the charges were dropped, the New Orleans Parish Sheriff chose to continue to hold Delmy in jail at Orleans Parish Prison based only on an investigatory immigration hold (sometimes called an “immigration detainer”).[2] At this time, the Sheriff was already facing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and a civil rights lawsuit based on his illegal use of these voluntary, investigatory holds to terrorize the immigrant community in New Orleans. 

Delmy fought for her release for unconstitutional detention.  From inside the jail, she filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus.  She became a key witness in the ongoing investigation and litigation about the Sheriff’s unconstitutional actions, and began speaking out about her experience and the need for fundamental changes in policy and practice at Orleans Parish Prison.[3]

Although she won her own release from the criminal justice system, ICE then retaliated against Delmy.  They re-arresting her in a warrantless night raid on her home, and separated her from her infant once again. On August 3, 2011, shortly after she had successfully challenged her unlawful detention stemming from an ICE hold request, ICE entered her home late in the evening, arrested her without a warrant, and detained Delmy without bond.  They transferred her to a rural detention center over four hours away from her infant son.

Despite all these obstacles, Delmy has chosen to continue to stand up as a civil rights leader.  Upon release and reunion with her family, Delmy helped to found the womens’ civil rights committee Women United For Justice -- urging an end to practices by the New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff, and Orleans Parish Prison that violate civil and human rights.  Her powerful leadership arises from her direct experience. In this rare case, the Sheriff and ICE have not been able to deport the witnesses against them.

Delmy advocates for better local and national policies that ensure civil rights protections for women and families within the criminal justice system.  She has participated as a community leader in delegations to Georgia and Massachusetts and has spoken with civil rights leaders, policy makers, and other community members to reveal the human-rights impact of immigration enforcement, including State anti-immigrant bills, and the federal "Secure Communities" program, on women, children and families.

 “As women from New Orleans, of all backgrounds, of all races, we stand up together for our children and for our vision of a dignified community.   Through our community organizations, we support each other, and try to ensure that other women don’t experience the injustices that we’ve had to experience.”

“Our families cannot afford to wait for the government to give us justice,” said Delmy.  “We have to make justice real.  The government should stop trying to deport me and stand up with me my community as we fight to end racial profiling and stop law enforcement officials who abuse their power and responsibility.” 

[1]Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (March 16, 2011)  available at 

[2]Update to the Letter of Findings, United States Civil Rights Investigation of the Orleans Parish Prison System, United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (April 23, 2012) available at

[3]Cacho v. Gusman, U.S. Dist. Ct. E.D. La., no. 2:11 c225 (2011).