Houston Texans linebacker Neville Hewitt blasted immigration officials after his mom was detained by US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement when she returned to the US for a deportation hearing.
Hewitt’s mom, Deon Jones, 47, spent nine years in a Georgia state prison after a car she was a passenger in was found with 40 grams of cocaine and some marijuana in its trunk, prompting her to be deported back to Jamaica in 2017, the Daily Beast reported.
As Hewitt, 30, prepared for the Texans’ AFC Divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, his mother was flying from Jamaica to Atlanta to prepare for an immigration hearing — one her lawyer Benjamin Osorio thought would allow Jones to be released with an ankle monitor.
However, when Jones’ plane landed she was immediately detained by an ICE officer, who took her phone away just as she messaged her son alerting him to the issue.
“This is what’s going on here in our country. And a lot of us, we are just not aware that this is actually taking place,” 30-year-old Hewitt said. “It’s been going on for years.”
His mother, who has never seen him play pro ball, would “love to be going crazy in the stands,” he told the outlet.
“I don’t care where you from or who you are, it’ll drive you crazy to know that you’re locked up and you don’t have an idea of why, and what’s going on with you,” Hewitt said. “You have no explanation. It’s mind-blowing.”
Hewitt was just 14 and only starting on his football journey when his mother was deported back to Jamaica, where she lived up until she was 12 years old.
The football player said he knew something was wrong when he did not see her after a high school football game, describing the realization he had as “heartbreaking.”
After his mother was incarcerated, Hewitt and his younger brother 28-year-old Horace lived with her boyfriend, who did not pay his bills and left the boys to shower and eat at school.
“What I got at school is what I ate,” Hewitt said.
In 2017 Jones was up for parole, but immigration authorities put a hold on her.
She spent a year and a half in the Irwin County Detention Center—a facility closed to women after a gynecologist there was found to have performed unnecessary hysterectomies on inmates. The situation became so stressful to Jones that she stopped eating and began to lose her hair before she agreed to be deported.
While in Jamacia her attorney argued her arrest should not have mandated her deportation and eventually secured her a new hearing, which she would have to appear in person for.
Osario said ICE led him to believe Jones would be placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor upon her return, allowing her to be reunited with her son and watch him play in the NFL.
“They indicated to us that everything was set up for an approval on the alternatives to detention and that they were just waiting for the supervisor to sign off on it,” he said.
Hewitt said his mother never would have gotten on the plane if she thought there was a chance she would be detained.
“You don’t have somebody get on a plane to go sit in jail,” he said. “Nobody’s going to go for that.”
Hewitt’s mother wasn’t there in person to comfort him on Saturday when the Texans lost to the Ravens 34-10, but she was able to talk to him on the phone.
“I was like, ‘I’m OK. This stuff they got you going through is not,’” he recalled.
Jones is now being held at the Stewart Detention Center, a facility two hours outside Atlanta that her attorney described as “worse than prison.”
“When you are detained by immigration, you eat and pretty much just sleep. There isn’t much you can do. You’ve just sitting there with your thoughts,” Osorio said.
Osorio added, “It’s tough to see her having to go through that again and just trying to mentally keep it together.”
Hewitt said he has repeatedly tried to call Stewart to ask about visitation but has not been able to get in to see his mother.
“It’s like we’re reliving something that we had already passed,” he said.
“We were already past this point and it’s like all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we’re back at square one.”
Osorio said Jones will likely appear before a judge in February, but that she may not be able to get a hearing for several months. If she wins, the government may appeal, which could drag the case out even longer.
If she can prevail in court, her lawyer believes she stands a chance of getting a green card.
“I’m nervous that she’s gonna give it all up and go back, and then that’s it,” Osorio said. “Because she was incarcerated for so long and then now had been free for a couple years, and then to go back to a detention setting, I understand it’s probably not a great place for her mentally.”
ICE and the US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.