Crystal Lake student released from ICE detention gets emotional welcome home
Crystal Lake student welcomed home by 'my family' who helped secure release from ICE detention
A flood of tears, hugs and laughter greeted Meydi Guzman Rivas on Thursday as classmates, friends, teachers and community members welcomed her home to Crystal Lake after she spent four months in an immigration jail.
The 18-year-old Honduran native and Crystal Lake Central High School senior was released on bond Thursday from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in southern Illinois.
Rivas' first order of business was a shower to wash off the ordeal of the past four months.
"It was really bad," said Rivas, now sitting on a couch at the Crystal Lake home of her school counselor, Sara Huser. "I didn't really think about coming back here. Now, I can really believe that. I'm really excited."
Overwhelmed by the media attention her situation has garnered, Rivas was grateful for the immense support of her school and Crystal Lake community in helping secure her freedom.
"What made me strong is all this. ... They are my family. ... Their support is what made me strong," Rivas said. "There are so many people in jail. ... They don't have what I have."
Rivas came to the United States in June 2018 with her father, Fabio Guzman-Reyes. They fled Honduras after Rivas was gang-raped and told she would become the property of that gang.
The duo sought asylum in the United States. But after they missed a court date last February, according to U.S. officials, their cases were continued until October. ICE agents took Rivas and her father into custody when they appeared in court for their hearing on Oct. 16.
Rivas said she hasn't spoken with her father since.
Guzman-Reyes also was ordered to be released on bond Wednesday; his status is unknown at this time.
"I have faith. I have hope in God that he will be out soon," Rivas said.
Huser rallied the community's support and donations raising more than $10,400 toward Rivas' court costs and legal defense through a GoFundMe page.
"We're just so happy," said Huser, with whom Rivas will be living for the time being. "My priority is to just make her feel at home. We're going to celebrate today."
Huser said that despite being "a child," Rivas bravely weathered the fear and uncertainty of the past few months.
"This girl is amazing," Huser said. "She has such fortitude."
For now, Rivas will be bunking with Huser's four children. She is looking forward to going back to school next week and getting back on track so she can graduate possibly this summer.
Her next court date for her petition for asylum/withdrawal of removal has not been set.
Seeing Rivas after such a long time was emotionally gut-wrenching for many classmates and teachers.
"I start crying every time I think about it," said Jay Schwarzrock, U.S. history and world studies teacher for the Language Academy at Crystal Lake Central.
Schwarzrock said hearing stories about immigrants being detained is commonplace, but "to have it happen this close, there is no longer cognitive dissonance between that and you."
For all the anger and frustration of the past few months, "it's a happy ending," he said, choking back tears.