Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to mass and said a prayer before her immigration check-in Wednesday in Phoenix.
It was her eighth visit since she was arrested in 2008 for using a fake Social Security number. After each meeting, the married mother of two went back to her family.
This time was different. She was detained and within 24 hours she was deported to her native Mexico. She was turned over to Mexican authorities at a border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Her lawyers claim she is a victim of President Donald Trump’s tougher stance on illegal immigration.
“I think this is a direct result of the new executive orders that are being put into actions by President Trump calling them ‘enhancing public safety,’ which really appears only to be attacking immigrant communities and people of color,” said her attorney, Ray Maldonado.
But U.S. immigration officials say her case had followed the legal system process and it was time for Garcia de Rayos, 35, to go back to her home country.
“Ms. Garcia, who has a prior felony conviction in Arizona for criminal impersonation, was the subject of a court-issued removal order that became final in July 2013,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement. “(Her) immigration case underwent review at multiple levels of the immigration court system, including the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.”
Garcia de Rayos might be the first person deported from Arizona under President Donald Trump’s executive order signed two weeks ago that focuses on removing undocumented immigrants with a history of arrests, her attorney told CNN affiliate KNXV-TV.
Any undocumented immigrant convicted or simply charged with a crime who hasn’t been adjudicated could be deported under a new Trump administration executive order announced January 25.
Under the Obama administration, only undocumented immigrants convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors were considered priorities for deportation.
‘A different time’
Garcia de Rayos came illegally to the United States in the mid-1990s with her parents when she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid and convicted one year later of felony criminal impersonation.
“It is difficult to stay in this country” Maldonado said with this type of a conviction, a level 6 felony.
During the legal battle, she appealed a court order to voluntarily deport. She lost.
In 2013 she was the subject of a removal order, but she also was the subject of court-ordered supervision, which meant she wouldn’t be immediately deported
“Lupita has been doing yearly check-ins with ICE and nothing happened,” said Lucy Sandoval, an activist who has been working with Garcia de Rayos’ family. “But this is a different time.”
Carlos Garcia, director of immigration rights group Puente Arizona, said “ICE had done what President Trump wanted — which is deport and separate our families.”
‘She wanted to confront this’
Garcia de Rayos, who has two children who were born in Arizona, was warned by activists and her lawyer that she could be deported.
She was offered sanctuary at a church but she decided to check-in anyway, Sandoval said.
“She wanted to confront this,” the activist said. “She was brave. … She’s a woman of faith. Yes, they were praying. They were hopeful that there would be some consciousness and some heart.
Her lawyer said he asked for six months to appeal her conviction but never heard back from authorities.
Her detention prompted demonstrations.
On Wednesday evening, seven people were arrested outside the Phoenix ICE office when protesters attempted to block an agency van from taking Garcia de Rayos away.
Wednesday’s protests were mostly peaceful, but police said on Twitter that “despite repeated warnings, some engaging in criminal acts” refused to stop.
Garcia de Rayos’ husband and teenage children joined the protesters outside ICE headquarters.
Asked what she would ask Trump if she could, Garcia de Rayos’ daughter Jaqueline told KNXV: “I’d ask him, ‘Why he would want to take her from me?’ She hasn’t done anything wrong and I’m not scared of him.”
‘A threat to nobody’
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, said the events of Garcia de Rayos’s detention and deportation are a travesty.
“Rather than tracking down violent criminals and drug dealers, ICE is spending its energy deporting a woman with two American children who has lived here for more than two decades and poses a threat to nobody,” he said.
Rights group blames Arpaio’s policy
Puente Arizona, the advocacy group, said that Garcia de Rayos was a victim of the controversial policies of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Enforcing identity-theft laws was one of Arpaio’s most well-known tools to crack down on illegal immigration in the border state.
Puente sued Arpaio, saying the workplace raids — such as the one where Garcia de Rayos was arrested nine years ago for using a fake Social Security number — were unconstitutional and amounted to racial and ethnic profiling. It lost the case on appeal, but Arpaio disbanded the task force that conducted the raids.
A crackdown on illegal immigration
The immigration executive orders signed by Trump could amount to a vast expansion of authority for individual immigration officers and a dramatic increase in efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.
The order lays out a series of categories of undocumented immigrants that immigration law enforcement officials should prioritize for removing from the country, a reaction to what was criticized by the right as lax enforcement of immigration law by President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration had prioritized expulsion of undocumented immigrants who threatened public safety or national security, had ties to criminal gang activity, committed serious felony offenses or were habitual misdemeanor criminal offenders.
Trump’s order goes far beyond that, using a sweeping definition of “criminal” and giving a single immigration officer the ability to make judgments on threats to public safety.
The order says the priority will be removing deportable immigrants who “have been convicted of any criminal offense; have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved; have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency; have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”