“Now they’re deporting her.” These words – trending on Twitter on Thursday morning – could apply to countless immigrants, but in this case, they tell the story of Guadalupe García de Rayos. On Wednesday, she headed to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix – as she had done for the last eight years – to check in. Instead, ICE agents arrested her, and began the procedure to send her back to Mexico, a country she has not resided in for more than 20 years, the New York Times reports.
On December 16, 2008, Joe Arpaio – the then-sheriff known for his hardline stance on immigration – ordered a raid at the Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa. Rayos gained employment through a fake Social Security number; officials arrested her on suspicion of identity theft and using forged documents. Ever since then, ICE has required her to check in every six months for short meetings pertaining to her case.
This year, Lupita went in fearing what could happen under our new leadership. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump expanded the definition of “criminal alien,” taking it from undocumented immigrants who posed a threat to public or national safety, had ties to criminal gangs, or had committed either a series of minor crimes or felonies to a term that now encompasses a wider range of people. Executive Director of Puente Carlos Garcia advised her to skip her appointment this year, and instead seek protection in a church. (A 2011 memo from the department states that enforcement actions – arrests, interviews, searches, and surveillance – should not occur at sensitive locations, which includes hospitals, churches, and schools.) But she decided to take her chances.
When ICE arrested her on Wednesday, protesters waited outside. As a van carrying her attempted to leave, her two US-born children and their supporters physically blocked the van. Manuel Saldaña put his body on the line and kept the van from moving after he tied himself to one of the front wheels. “I’m going to stay here as long as it takes,” he said.
As protestors surrounded the car and held signs urging ICE not to breakup families, they shouted “liberation, not deportation.” Her son looked into the window to see his mom, whose face was partly obscured. He still remembers the first time ICE arrested her. “I was in second grade,” he said. “I never forgot that night, and I’ve lived in fear of losing my mother every night since then.”
Eventually, police officers arrived and arrested seven people blocking the car, including Saldaña. The van went in reverse back into the building. The NYT notes that it isn’t clear if the van intended to take Lupita – and the other undocumented immigrants in the van – to detention or back to Mexico. By midnight, her family didn’t know her whereabouts, but they suspected that she sat inside a police-escorted car that exited the ICE office after the breakup of the protest.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said García “is currently being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement based on removal order issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.” Meanwhile, Lupita’s lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, is working to delay or stop her deportation. The fight isn’t over. Today Arizona activists will meet to plan their next move. But Wednesday’s fight showed that this is potentially an example of what’s to come for activists in the Trump era.
As some celebrate the tightening of immigration laws in the United States, other wonder if there isn’t more pertinent issues the Trump Administration could be handling:
Update, February 9 at 1:10 p.m.: Lupita was deported to Nogales, Sonora.