NFL star Neville Hewitt slammed immigration officials after his mom was detained in an ICE lockup when she flew to the US for a deportation hearing.
The Houston Texans linebacker, 30, said his ex-convict mom Deon Jones, 47, was arrested last Saturday when she landed at an Atlanta airport, at the same time he was preparing for a playoff showdown with the Baltimore Ravens.
Jones had served nine years in Georgia state prison for a drug charge when cocaine and marijuana was found in a car that she was a passenger in, before she was deported to Jamaica in 2017, reports the Daily Beast.
After years of hoping to someday watch her son play in the NFL in person, Jones’ attorney navigated the complex immigration system to schedule a hearing that would allow her to re-enter the US last week.
But ICE officials decided to arrest her as soon as she touched down on the runway, leaving the mom in a squalid immigration detention center that is ‘worse than prison’ – with Hewitt now leading the charge to reverse the ‘mind-blowing’ situation.
Houston Texans linebacker Neville Hewitt (pictured) slammed immigration officials after his mother was unexpectedly detained last week
Hewitt, 30, (left) said his mom Deon Jones, 47, (right) would never have taken the flight if she thought there was a risk of arrest, and felt she ‘didn’t do anything to deserve this right now’
Jones has spent the week since her arrest in legal limbo at the Stewart Detention Center, one of the largest immigration facilities in America, two hours outside Atlanta
Jones served nine years in prison for a 2008 drug conviction after 40 pounds of cocaine and some marijuana were found in the trunk of a car that she was a passenger in
Under US immigration law, a deportee with a drug conviction is automatically detained if they ever return to the US, even if they are on an appeal like Jones was.
Hewitt’s family were under the impression that his mother would be fitted with an ankle monitor until her hearing, and her immigration lawyer Benjamin Osorio said an ICE officer led him to believe her temporary house arrest would go smoothly.
‘They indicated to us that everything was set up for an approval,’ he said, adding that when an ICE officer cautioned him that they would meet her off the plane, he hoped that ‘maybe he’s just gonna help try to facilitate her through.’
Jones, who had never been in trouble with the law before her conviction, had feared that she would end up back behind bars if she left Jamaica, but the lengthy negotiations for her landing seemingly assured her.
‘You don’t have somebody get on a plane to go sit in jail,’ Hewitt later told the Daily Beast. ‘Nobody’s going to go for that.’
Instead, Jones was hauled off the packed plane in handcuffs as soon as she landed, and has spent the week since her arrest in legal limbo at the Stewart Detention Center, one of the largest immigration facilities in America, two hours outside Atlanta.
‘Where she’s at is worse than prison,’ Osorio said. ‘When you are detained by immigration, you eat and pretty much just sleep. There isn’t much you can do. You’re just sitting there with your thoughts.’
‘She didn’t do anything to deserve this right now,’ Hewitt added.
‘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… you have no explanation. It’s mind-blowing.’
The NFL star added that his mother’s predicament has opened his eyes to the deep issues in America’s immigration systems, which leaves people confused and without information for months as they slip through the cracks.
‘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,’ he said. ‘It’s been going on for years.’
Hewitt was preparing for his eventual playoff loss to the Ravens when his mother was detained last Saturday. He said the issues she is facing has opened his eyes to the immigration issues that have ben ‘going on in our country’ for years
The NFL star and his brother shared on Saturday that they were finally able to see their mother behind bars, in a facility their attorney described as ‘worse than prison’
Hewitt said his mother’s arrest devastated his childhood, as he and his brother were left living with her deadbeat boyfriend while all he had to eat was what he received at school
The convicted that landed Jones behind bars, now twice, occurred in 2008, when she was arrested on a state drug trafficking charge.
A car she was a passenger in was pulled over by police, leading officers to discover 40 grams of cocaine and some marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle.
Hewitt vividly remembered finding out about his mother’s arrest because she didn’t show up for his high school football game, and the next time he saw her was behind a prison partition.
‘It is heartbreaking,’ he recalled, noting the devastating impact the arrest had on his young life.
With his mother incarcerated, Jones and his brother Horace lived in her home with her deadbeat boyfriend, who failed to feed the boys or pay the bills to keep the water and electricity on.
Despite being a standout high school football player, Hewitt was forced to eat only the breakfast and lunch he got at school, which was also the only place he could have a shower.
‘What I got at school is what I ate,’ he said, adding that he was thrilled to later win a scholarship to Georgia Military College because it guaranteed three meals a day.
Jones’ incarceration also meant that she missed out on seeing Neville become the first person in their family to graduate college.
‘I kind of knew that she wouldn’t be able to make it, so I was mentally prepared,’ he recalled. ‘But the beauty of it all was I went to college and graduated, and my brother went to college and graduated.’
Hewitt – who has earned a reported $11 million in his nine-year NFL career – was only able to see his mother if he travelled to Jamaica, where he used his fortune to build her a home and farm
Jones’ immigration attorney Benjamin Osorio (pictured) navigated the complex legal system to win her a hearing in appeals court, and said he believed she would be on house arrest until her court date until she was surprisingly detained
When Jones was up for parole in 2017, the process was abruptly cut short when immigration officials put a hold on her case as they ordered her to be deported back to Jamaica.
In hopes of remaining in America, she then spent a year-and-a-half at the Irwin County Detention Center – a facility that was later shut down for women due to a sickening scandal where a prison gynecologist was found to have performed unnecessary hysterectomies on inmates.
Jones said the squalid conditions were so poor in the detention center that she stopped eating and her hair fell out, and eventually agreed to be deported to escape the stress of the lockup.
Once deported to Jamaica, Hewitt – who has earned a reported $11 million in his nine-year NFL career – was able to build his mom a nice home and farm.
While his mother has missed all his NFL games living in the Caribbean, the star linebacker has been able to visit Jones several times – and most recently shared a sweet birthday post for his mom on Instagram in April from his last trip to Jamaica.
While finally free, Jones sought to appeal her deportation order, with Osorio able to schedule the recent hearing as he successfully argued to an appeals court that her 2008 arrest never rose to the level of ‘aggravated felony.’
However, although Osorio’s efforts won Jones a hearing, she was mandated to appear in person – leading her to take the flight to Atlanta last week.
Hewitt insisted his mother would never have tried to enter the US if she thought there was a chance that she could end up back behind bars, and said she remained in the detention center as he took to the field against the Ravens.
Following Jones’ detention, Hewitt said it felt like her legal battle was ‘back to square one’
After his 34-10 playoff defeat, Hewitt said his mother’s mind was only on consoling him despite her situation.
‘I was like, ‘I’m OK. This stuff they got you going through is not”, he recalled to the Daily Beast.
Now left in legal limbo for the past week, the NFL star said his family are scrambling for a solution.
‘It’s like we’re reliving something that we had already passed,’ he continued.
‘We were already past this point and it’s like all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we’re back at square one.’
‘It’s tough to see her having to go through that again and just trying to mentally keep it together,’ Osorio added.
Hewitt shared on his Instagram story on Saturday that he and his brother had been able to visit Stewart to see his mother, but inmates are only allowed to see their families for one hour once a week.
‘She didn’t do anything to deserve this right now.’
Jones has been locked up for a week, but the complex immigration system may mean she remains in the squalid detention center for months
Despite his superstar status, Hewitt’s mother may be locked up for some time.
Although she is set to be hauled before a judge in February, Osorio said she may not get another hearing for months – and said if she wins then he would expect the process to go on for several more months after as the government almost always appeals.
‘I’m nervous that she’s gonna give it all up and go back, and then that’s it,’ the attorney concluded.
‘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.’
While his season may be over after the playoff defeat to the Ravens, Hewitt said the legal nightmare may all be worth it if his mom is someday able to see him play.
‘She would love to be going crazy in the stands,’ he said.