PHOENIX, Arizona — Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a mother of two who was taken into custody during her yearly check-in with immigration officials in Phoenix, has been deported to her native Mexico, advocates working with her family said Thursday.
Carlos Garcia, director of immigration rights group Puente Arizona, told reporters that Garcia de Rayos had been deported to Nogales, Mexico — the same border area where she illegally entered the United States as a teenager with her parents. Now 35, Garcia de Rayos has two children — both born in the United States.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Garcia de Rayos was detained “based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013.”
Garcia de Rayos said a prayer and attended Mass before her yearly immigration check-in Wednesday, according to advocates. They said she knew that she could be deported.
As feared, her meeting ended differently than ones in previous years: She was taken into custody and ordered to be 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.”
Immigration advocates said they believe the deportation reflects President Donald Trump’s administration’s immigration hardline. “ICE had done what President Trump wanted — which is deport and separate our families,” Garcia said.
ICE: Case worked its way through system
ICE officials, however, said the case had been working its way through the system and that the time for Garcia de Rayos to be deported had come.
“Ms. Garcia’s 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.,” ICE said in a statement.
“ICE will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with felony convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts.”
Garcia de Rayos could be the first person deported from Arizona under President Donald Trump’s new executive order focused 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 President Trump administration policy announced last month.
Under the Obama administration, only undocumented immigrants convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors were considered priorities for deportation.
‘A threat to nobody’
“This is a direct result of the new executive orders that are being put into action. President Trump (calls) them enhancing public safety, which really appears only to be attacking immigrant communities and people of color,” said Garcia de Rayos’ lawyer, Ray Ybarra Maldonado.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, via Twitter, said: “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.”
In 2008, Garcia de Rayos was arrested in a workplace raid, convicted of felony impersonation and served six months in ICE detention before being released later that year, according to CNN affiliate KPHO/KTVK-TV.
“Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia De Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation,” an ICE statement said.
Activists said the woman’s conviction stemmed from a false Social Security card she used for employment. “It is difficult to stay in this country” with this type of a conviction — a class 6 felony, Maldonado said.
‘She wanted to confront this’
Garcia de Rayos prayed before her meeting Wednesday, Sandoval said. Activists as well as her lawyer warned of the possibility of her detention and deportation. She was offered sanctuary 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.”
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 President 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.”
Rights group blames Arpaio’s policy
Puente Arizona, the advocacy group, said that Garcia de Rayos was a victim of the 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 President 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.
President 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.”