Nearly four months after last seeing his mother, 10-year-old Toby Shi cries as he pages through the hand-drawn pictures she sends him from her holding facility in Farmville, Va.
"These pictures make me think that she loves me, that she cares about me," said Toby, tears falling freely down his face in the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his grandfather. "But I miss my mom."
Toby's mother, Jian Ling Lin, was arrested in Alexandria, Va. during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting to uncover green card fraud. It's not clear why Lin was taken into custody -- she wasn't charged with either selling or trying to buy a green card, but others were.
Still, she remains in the immigration detention facility.
Toby and his 6-month-old sister Mia have been left in the care of their 62-year-old grandfather, who is disabled and has health issues.
Lin's attorney, C.J. Wang, said authorities "want to keep her to use as a possible witness or for evidence" in an investigation into a green card scam.
"But that's not a legal reason because she hasn't been charged," he said.
Wang, a Flushing, Queens-based attorney, has been working with Lin to get her green card so that she may stay in New York with her American-born children. Wang acknowledges that Lin has deportation orders but ICE can grant parents with young children supervised release so they can care for them.
"That's what an order of supervision means," said Wang. "She is released, goes to get her travel documents and then comes back to the supervisor and reports to him every month.
"In some cases, you wear an electronic monitor, and then eventually you are deported. That's what we are asking for. She's entitled to it and it should be done according to the law," she said.
Instead, Lin has not seen her children for more than three months.
In Mandarin, Lin's father, who has no experience caring for infants, explained that he cannot maintain the stressful role of sole caregiver of his grandchildren.
Toby said his father is a restaurant worker in another state who works every day "and he doesn't have time to come home."
As the days drag on, Toby, who is old enough to understand his mother's absence, does not want to deal with the possibility of never seeing her home again.
"That would mean I won't have a mother anymore," he said.
In a statement Wednesday, ICE said it was reviewing Lin's case.
"ICE will typically not detain individuals who are the primary caretakers of children, unless the individual is legally subjected to mandatory detention based on the severity of their criminal or immigration history," the statement said, though it did not detail Lin's case history.
"Overall, ICE is focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement which prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, threats to national security, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives," ICE said.
On Thursday, Wang started a petition on change.org to help in the release of Lin. To sign the petition, click here.