The Trump administration decided that it’s time for an illegal immigrant, allowed by the Obama administration to remain in Phoenix after being convicted of felony identity theft in 2009, to go back to Mexico.
That has outraged members of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos’ family and the mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton.
Coincidentally, the Mexican-born woman was deported as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was arriving in Arizona for a tour of that section of the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Stanton urged Kelly to do more than “stare at the fence” and “take photos” during his visit to the Arizona-Mexico border Thursday after the 36-year-old woman who had lived in Phoenix for more than two decades — and is the mother of two — was deported to Mexico on Wednesday night.
Two hundred people — protesters and family members chanting “shut it down, let her go free, the power of the people won’t stop” — tried to halt the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) van that was transporting Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos from a detention center Wednesday night.
They surrounded the vehicle, and NBC reported one man put his arm in the van’s wheel well to stop it.
Calling it an “injustice,” Rayos’ 14-year-old daughter Jacqueline told protesters Wednesday night that her mom “is a very kindhearted person.”
“She has always worked to try to give me and my brother a great education so that we could live on and have a great career,” Jacqueline said.
The protests were the climax of an online campaign to allow Rayos to stay with her family in Phoenix. Close to 3,500 signatures were collected on online petitions, and the hashtags #FreeLupita, #WhyIResist and #GuadalupeGarcia were used to generate support on Twitter.
Rayos’ family blames President Trump’s executive order to deport illegal immigrants who have been convicted, charged or suspected of committing crimes for the woman’s deportation.
During the Wednesday night demonstration, Rayos’ 16-year-old son, Angel, told the crowd, “My mom did nothing wrong. My mom is not a criminal.”
But Rayos does have a criminal record because of her conviction on a felony charge of identification theft. She was arrested during one of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s workplace raids.
ICE officials said Rayos’ removal under a voluntary deportation order was finalized by the Department of Justice in May 2013.
“Ms. Garcia De Rayos is currently being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013,” read the ICE statement. “Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia De Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation.”
Rayos’ husband, who asked that his name not be used, said she had worked out an agreement with the Department of Justice under the Obama administration and everything was going well until Trump moved into the Oval Office.
He said Rayos checked in with immigration officials every year, just as instructed under the deportation order.
“Today, under Trump’s administration, this is what’s going on. Everybody in the position of my wife, who’s come to check in, this is what’s going to happen,” Rayos’ husband, who also doesn’t have legal status, told MSNBC. “They are going to try to take her out [of the country].”
Rayos’ husband said both he and she were brought to America by their parents when they were teenagers.
“We are Americans,” Rayos’ husband said.
Trump did issue an executive order in which he prioritized the deportation of illegal immigrants who have been convicted, charged of a crime or “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”
“We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” the Jan. 25 executive order also read. “The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigration laws of the United States.”
Ray Ybarra-Maldonado, a Phoenix immigration lawyer who is representing Rayos, told the Arizona Republic the only reason the woman was deported was because of the executive order.
“Her case is no different than the last time she checked in,” he said. “The facts are 100 percent the same. The only difference is the priorities for removal have now changed.”
Rayos was arrested when she went into the ICE office for her annual visit.
Mayor Stanton said Kelly should take a “much closer look around…and try to understand how closely our economy and that of Mexico are linked.”
Stanton also said the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was a perfect example of why he would never allow the city of Phoenix to “enter into any other agreements with the Trump administration to advance his mass deportation plans.”
“Rather than tracking down violent criminals and drug dealers,” Stanton said, “ICE is spending its energy deporting a woman with two American children who has lived here for more than two decades.”
“What happened to Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos,” Stanton said, “is a travesty.”