NEW: Undocumented immigrant says she does not regret staying in US
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos sent back to Mexico from Arizona
Attorney: Deportation a direct result of the new executive orders
In a matter of days, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos has gone from being one of about 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States to a poster child for critics of Donald Trump’s hard line on immigration and his promise to increase deportations.
It was her eighth visit since her 2008 arrest and conviction for using a fake Social Security number. After each meeting, she was released and returned to her family in Mesa.
This time was different.
This time, Garcia de Rayos was detained and deported to Mexico within 24 hours in what her attorney claims is a direct result of Trump’s crackdown.
Whatever the reason, Garcia de Rayos, 35, said she has no regrets. Not about coming to the US as a teenager in search of a better life nearly two decades ago, or staying illegally and working under a fake Social Security number. Not about going to her immigration check-in despite the risk of deportation under the Trump administration’s executive order.
“The truth is I was there [in the United States] for my children. For a better future. To work for them. And I don’t regret it, because I did it for love,” she said in a news conference Thursday night from Nogales, Mexico.
“I’m going to keep fighting so that they continue to study in their country, and so that their dreams become a reality.”
‘A threat to nobody’
Garcia de Rayos was turned over to Mexican authorities Thursday at a border crossing in Nogales, Arizona. She might be the first person deported from Arizona under President Trump’s executive order, her attorney told CNN affiliate KNXV-TV.
Her case has become a flashpoint in debate over the new policy, which says any undocumented immigrant convicted or charged with a crime that hasn’t been adjudicated could be deported.
“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,” her attorney Ray Maldonado said.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, called her deportation 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.
Why she was deported
Garcia de Rayos has two children who were born in Arizona.
She 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.
After her conviction she appealed a court order to voluntarily deport and lost. She became the subject of a removal order in 2013 and was placed court-ordered supervision, which required her to report on a provided schedule to an ICE office until her order of removal was “affected,” or acted on.
US immigration officials acknowledged that she was compliant with her supervision order. She showed up for each of her seven immigration check-ins prior to Wednesday.
Officials said her case had followed the legal system process and it was time for her to go back to her home country.
“(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 US,” ICE said in a statement.
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’
Activists and her lawyer cautioned that she could be deported under the new Trump administration policy. They offered sanctuary at a church but she decided to check in anyway, said Lucy Sandoval, an activist who has been working with Garcia de Rayos’ family.
“She wanted to confront this,” Sandoval said. “They were hopeful that there would be some consciousness and some heart.”
Garcia de Rayos said she wanted to be an example for other families.
“I don’t regret it, because I know I did this so that more families could see what’s in store, what could happen, and so that they could know what they could risk,” she in Thursday’s news conference.
Trump is not harming the adults and the parents who get deported, but it’s different for the children left behind in the United States, she said.
“I am not what he says. I simply am a mother who fights for her children, who fights to give them the best.”
Her children crossed the border Thursday night to be with their mother.
“We don’t deserve to go through this. No family deserves to go through this. It’s heartbreaking. No one should feel this much pain, no one should go through this much suffering,” her daughter Stephanie said Thursday.
“I’m not going to stop fighting for her.”
Rights group blames Arpaio’s policy
Her detention prompted two consecutive evenings of 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.
Immigrant advoacy group Puente Arizona said Garcia de Rayos was a victim of 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 in which Garcia de Rayos was arrested – 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, regardless of whether the person has been convicted of a crime.
CNN’s Mariano Castillo, Laura Dolan, Jean Casarez, Chris Boyette and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.