Three months after Vanessa Gómez Cueva, a Peruvian mother of three residing in Argentina, was expelled from the country, her lawyer and civil society organizations solicited precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to avert the irreparable harm provoked by the separation of this family due to the expulsion of Vanessa and her youngest Argentine child, who is a minor.
Vanessa’s lawyer, Juan Martín Villanueva, along with representatives of Amnesty International, la Comisión Argentina para Refugiados y Migrantes (CAREF), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and el Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) held a meeting with journalists where we presented some of the details of the case.
“Vanessa is living in a room that someone lent her and she’s experiencing a situation of extreme vulnerability. She is anguished by the distance between her and her two other children, who don’t understand why she left. The situation that brings us here today could change with one simple decision by the National Director of Migrations,” Villanueva stated.
Mariana Marques, of Amnesty International, warned that Vanessa’s case takes place in the framework of a regressive migratory policy. “With Argentina having been recognized by international bodies as a model to follow in terms of migratory policies, it is highly troubling to see backsliding in the regulatory reforms and discursive strategies that the state is promoting and that give rise to cases like Vanessa’s.”
Diego Morales of CELS also referred to the regulatory context and the migration situation in Argentina. “In January 2017, the executive branch reformed the National Migrations Law through DNU 70/17. This decree modified two central points: the period of time that migrants have to contest an expulsion decision with migration authorities (three days) and, secondly, a change in the weight given to criminal records. Today, a foreign person who is detained for any crime can no longer reside in Argentina, regardless of whether he or she has a conviction, has been charged or is awaiting trial,” Morales said.
CAREF revealed the existence of other cases similar to that of Gómez Cueva. They specifically referred to the case of Sierra Chávez, a Peruvian woman who was retained while her 14-year-old daughter was at school and was quickly expelled. “She had served her sentence. She was not aware of her expulsion order. A notification was left at her door, without her knowing it, and she was retained when she went to renew her ‘precarious residency.’ They expelled her without giving her a chance to say goodbye to her daughter, and she is permanently barred from reentering the country,” said Gabriela Liguori, the executive director of CAREF. Her organization noted that in Vanessa’s case as well as in others, at no time was the voice of the children affected by the measure heard, which contradicts the best interests of the child in every way.
Finally, María Noel Leoni of CEJIL emphasized that “the Argentine state failed on many levels. It failed by promoting a migratory policy that fosters human rights violations, by resorting to deceit and coercion in an expulsion procedure that did not comply in any way with guarantees of protection, and it failed because, despite all the complaints and the actions taken – some of which are still pending – Vanessa and her family have yet to receive a response from the state that protects their rights.” In light of this, she explained that they have turned to the Inter-American Human Rights System so that the IACHR may order the state to put an end to the grave and urgent situation faced by Vanessa and her children, which exposes them to irreparable harm to their rights due to a separation that could become permanent.
In the petition filed to the IACHR, the organizations request that the prohibition on reentry be lifted, the expulsion order be revoked, the urgent return to Argentina of Vanessa Gómez Cueva and her youngest child be guaranteed, and that measures be taken to regularize Vanessa’s migratory situation. In addition, with regard to social assistance, they request that the state be responsible for providing psychological assistance to the victims, the specialists noted.
Vanessa Gómez Cueva, a Peruvian national, was abruptly expelled from Argentina – where she had been residing for 15 years – along with her nursing 2-year-old son, and separated from her two other children, ages 6 and 14, without even being able to say goodbye to them. All of her children are Argentine citizens, and her mother and sisters also reside in Argentina.
Vanessa is a single mother. In 2014, she finished serving a sentence for selling narcotics and, after being released, she worked and graduated as a nursing technician. Vanessa rebuilt her life around raising her children and around her work caring for older adult patients. Despite this, and solely because she had a criminal record, on February 1, 2019 she was deceived by Argentine officials, detained and ultimately expelled from the country in a brutal manner along with her youngest child, just three days later (February 4, 2019).
Three months have gone by since this family was split up, and with each day that passes, the three children’s lives, well-being and development is irremediably affected by the impact of this separation.