KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Immigration officials say they didn’t get a writ ordering them to delay the deportation of a KC bar owner until it was too late and she’d already been deported.
Leticia Stegall, who manages Blue Line Hockey Bar in the River Market neighborhood, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Feb. 26 as she left her home in KCMO.
“For some reason, they wanted her bad enough that they waited outside of my house all morning,” her husband Steve Stegall said.
The arrest happened during a four-day enforcement operation in the metro area where 20 people were arrested. According to a press release from ICE, several of the people who were arrested had prior criminal offenses, including driving under the influence, child neglect, child abuse, drug offenses, fraud and larceny.
Steve Stegall admits his 40-year-old wife came to the U.S. illegally 20 years ago. He said she had one run-in with the law in 2012 when she was arrested for driving under the influence and had to spend 30 days in a Kansas jail.
“That’s not reason enough to deport her,” Steve Stegall said. “She paid her taxes. She had a work permit. We were blindsided by this because we thought we were doing the right thing.”
Steve Stegall said the couple has been working to obtain legal status for Leticia since they married five years ago. He said they were in the process of taking their latest appeal to the 18th Judicial District Court.
“We’ve been going through the legal process of going to court, filing appeals, exhausting every option and we weren’t done,” he said.
When he found his wife was going to be deported on March 2, the couple’s lawyer was able to get a judge to sign a writ of habeas corpus, ordering that Leticia Stegall remain in custody at the Platte County Jail until March 12. On that date she was supposed to have a hearing to determine the next steps in her case.
“My lawyer was sitting outside ICE, watching the van, making sure they didn’t load her up while he was waiting for this writ,” Steve Stegall. “They got it Friday around 3:30 p.m., and they deported her right after.”
Six hours later, Steve said he received a call from his wife saying she was in Mexico.
“They ignored the judge’s order and deported her anyway,” Steve Stegall.
But ICE officials offer a different timeline of events. In a statement, a spokesman said when the local ICE office received the writ via fax, Leticia Stegall was no longer in the Platte County Jail.
Now ICE officials say, because Leticia Stegall has already been deported to Mexico and is no longer in ICE custody, the writ is no longer applicable — and what’s next for the Stegall family isn’t clear.
The family wanted to prevent a forceful deportation because Leticia could be banned from the U.S. for 10 years.
“We would’ve sent her back on her own, but we wanted to exhaust the court system,” Steve Stegall said. “Now, it’s going to be really hard to get her back here.”
Steve Stegall said the hardest part about the whole situation was telling the couple’s 16-year-old daughter that her mom isn’t coming back home.
“I said, ‘Immigration came and got your mom,’ and she just broke down, and when she broke down, I broke down,” Steve Stegall said. “It was just God-awful. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody to go through a situation like that.”
On Monday, dozens of supporters held a rally at Blue Line, sporting signs as they marched around the block.
“Leticia is the backbone of Blue Line,” said Steve. “If it weren’t for her, this place wouldn’t probably even be here.”