Police made several arrests as protesters blocked enforcement vans from leaving a U.S. immigration office in Phoenix late Wednesday, fearing that a mother of two was on board and possibly headed for deportation.
Media reports said the protest surged at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility after Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody during a routine check-in with the agency.
Fearing her deportation, dozens of immigration activists blocked the gates surrounding the office near central Phoenix in what the Arizona Republic says was an effort to stop several vans and a bus from leaving.
The paper said that Garcia de Rayos apparently was in one of the vehicles, which are used to transport people in ICE custody to detention centers, or to Arizona's border with Mexico for deportation.
After 9 p.m., the paper said police officers amassed at the facility as protesters continued to block access, chanting “Justice!” and “Power to the people, no one is illegal!”
Police posted on Twitter that they arrested about seven protesters, but they added that most of the protesters were peaceful.
“Besides the few people engaged in criminal acts, most people out here are peaceful and exercising their rights properly,” police said. “Everyone remains safe so far. Hoping for continued cooperation and no more criminal conduct.”
The activists said it was an attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to deport undocumented immigrants who had previously not been a priority for deportation under the Obama administration.
Her arrest came just days after the Trump administration broadened regulations under which some people will be deported.
“We're living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants,” Ms. Rayos's lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, told the New York Times after leaving the building that houses the federal immigration agency.
The protests carried on late into the night and included several people who bound themselves to one of the vans while others sat in front of a closed gate, blocking anyone from leaving.
Puente Arizona, an immigrant advocacy group, said García de Rayos came to the U.S. as a 14-year-old and now has two children. She was arrested on Wednesday while reporting to ICE, an annual requirement after she was arrested nine years ago.