Deporting mom who made mistake makes no sense

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On the morning of Sunday, Feb. 29, Yana Slobodova kissed her toddler son goodbye as he lay sleeping, not knowing when she will see him again.

A few hours later, the 30-year-old piano teacher tearfully boarded Delta flight No. 310 to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. From there, she flew to her native Russia.

Slobodova has been open about the fact that she made a foolish mistake, in a desperate attempt to leave Russia eight years ago.

She was taken into custody after a routine interview. Some say that she made another mistake in signing away her right to appeal in order to get out of jail. But she did so with her attorney present. And when you’re a scared young woman, being held in a cell with real criminals and you haven’t seen your baby in three weeks, what other choice do you believe you have?

When we began reporting on this story more than a month ago, Slobodova was just another immigrant who got caught up in the bureaucracy of our new homeland security laws.

But over the past month, that has changed. We saw that she wears braces on her teeth. We heard the most glowing things about her from her piano students and their parents. We saw the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal drop almost everything else to work on her case. We saw the Hebrew Free Loan Association come through with a “loan” of $5,000 for legal expenses.

We fielded a few phone calls from people who wanted to offer their help, and we heard her express how grateful she was for all the support. But it was easy to see there was a sadness about her that no doubt wasn’t there before she came to our attention.

We don’t understand why she wasn’t given the chance to prove herself to the immigration authorities. We don’t understand how the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services could think that separating a young woman from her husband, baby and parents — all of whom are American citizens or soon-to-be citizens — is in the best interests of our country. Especially when her husband has an injury, and can barely support himself and their son. Her departure not only deprives them of her care, her love and her company, but of her paycheck.

Surely the BCIS never heard of the talmudic saying that to save one life is like saving the entire world.

Slobodova’s lawyer, Marc Van Der Hout, promised the case isn’t over. He will soon engage in a campaign to the Department of Homeland Security to bring her back.

We can only hope that he is successful, and that if help from the Jewish community is needed, he will let us know.