From calling out Saturday Night Live for inviting Donald Trump to host the NBC show to getting arrested in the name of immigration reform, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez has shown his dedication to the Latino community. So after Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) officials told Francisca Lino during a routine check-in that she’d have to return to her native Mexico come summer, she turned to Gutiérrez for help. On Monday, Gutiérrez and faith leaders met with ICE officials and advocated for her freedom. They asked the agency to reverse her deportation order. And when ICE denied that request, Gutiérrez staged a five-hour sit-in, which ended with him in handcuffs, according to the Washington Post.
Lino, 50, has lived in the United States for 18 years. She’s the mother of six children – aged 15 to 27 – all born in the United States, and the wife of a US citizen. She arrived in the United States in 1999, but ICE deported her shortly after. A few months later, she crossed the border again and settled in Chicago. She married her husband in 2001, and a few years later, she applied for legal residency, with her husband sponsoring her. On the application, she didn’t hide her deportation. In 2005, during a hearing for the application, she ended up jailed for 21 days.
In 2008, she received a deportation summons, but Gutiérrez intervened and argued that her family relied on her for financial and parental support. Gutiérrez and Lino’s lawyer successfully petitioned to delay her deportation for one year or until the next president took office. In November 2008, Barack Obama won the election.
Under President Barack Obama, there was a larger focus on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions. (However, it’s important to note that Obama, known as the deporter-in-chief for deporting upwards of 2.5 million immigrants, fell short on his promise to target “felons, not families.”) But the Obama Administration’s prioritizing of immigrants with criminal records meant that people like Francisca wouldn’t be separated from their loved ones. So long as she checked in with ICE yearly, she could stay in the United States.
The first time Lino – who has a clean record – checked in with the agency under Donald Trump’s administration, she thought she’d have a year to obtain a visa. However, as her attorney quickly clarified, there had been a miscommunication. Instead, she’d have to report back to a federal building in July for deportation.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to remove up to 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country. He followed that up with two immigration orders, one of which expanded the definition of “criminal alien” to encompass a wider range of undocumented immigrants.
Lino’s not the only undocumented immigrant whose ICE check-in has ended with news of deportation. About a month ago, Guadalupe García de Rayos headed to an ICE office in Phoenix – as she had done for the last eight years – to check in. Instead, agents arrested her and deported her back to Mexico, a country she hasn’t resided in for more than 20 years.
With Trump vilifying all undocumented immigrants, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez is fighting so that the administration’s behavior isn’t normalized. During his sit-in on Monday, officials asked him to leave several times. But when he refused, officers handcuffed Gutiérrez and two others briefly before releasing them. “Look, there’s a lie, and the lie keeps repeating,” Gutiérrez told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “[ICE says] they’re going after criminals, they’re going after the bad people in the immigrant community. The fact is, they’re going after DREAMers. Somebody has to stand up for them … they are under threat. When you see unfairness and unjustness … it’s part of what being an American is, is to stand up.”
Gutiérrez didn’t have good news for the Lino family this week. But as they wait for July, he’ll likely be right by their side. As for the family, they’re currently weighing their options. Lino originally didn’t want to seek refuge in a sanctuary church. Now, she’s willing to take “extreme measures.” But throughout this struggle, they will remain united. “I feel very sad because I might have to leave,” she said. “But I’ll leave with my children. I’m not going to leave them behind.”