A mother of two children, both U.S. citizens, was deported to Mexico early Thursday, her lawyer said, showing a change in U.S. policy toward undocumented immigrants.
Ray Ybarra Maldonado said the undocumented woman was taken into custody Wednesday in Phoenix, Arizona, when she stopped in for a routine check at a U.S. immigration office.
"I was informed by the Mexican Consulate that my client was deported from the country," Maldonado said.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, had checked in with U.S. immigration authorities every year since 2008, when she was stopped for using a fake Social Security number during a raid on a water park where she worked. In past visits, she answered questions that were put to her and went home.
But when Rayos went in for her meeting Wednesday, she was arrested and deportation proceedings were begun. She had lived in the U.S. for more than 22 years.
During a news conference, Maldonado said he had filed a stay of deportation on Wednesday.
"Yesterday at 5:30 [p.m.], I was told the decision would come shortly. And here it is this morning, and those cowards have yet to even return my call, even send me an email, to give me any information about why they denied our stay," he added.
A statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the deportation was "based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013. Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia de Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation."
"ICE will remove illegal aliens convicted of felony offenses as ordered by an immigration judge," the agency said in series of tweets after the media reported the deportation.
ICE will remove illegal aliens convicted of felony offenses as ordered by an immigration judge.— ICE (@ICEgov) February 9, 2017
'The first ones'
Maldonado said Garcia de Rayos' deportation was an attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to deport immigrants living in the country illegally who had previously not been a priority for deportation under the administration of former President Barack Obama.
"I think it just fell on her bad luck, the bad timing, of her last check-in being yesterday. … There's no facts in their case that are any different from the last times that she checked in — the only difference being the executive order and a new president," Maldonado said.
"We are the first ones. Our family was the first one," Garcia de Rayos' son Angel, 16, said. "My sister needs my mom. Me, too, [but] my sister is only 14. She is growing up; she needs her advice. … My mother is everything to me. ... We are going through a lot of pain."
When García de Rayos came to the U.S., she was the same age as her daughter Jacqueline is now. "Her heart is so big. She treats everyone as if they were her own family," an emotional Jacqueline said.
Dozens of immigration activists blocked the gates surrounding the immigration office near central Phoenix Wednesday night to try to prevent enforcement vans from leaving.
Protesters said Garcia de Rayos was in one of the vehicles, which were used to transport people in ICE custody to detention centers, or to Arizona's border with Mexico for deportation.
A photo by The Arizona Republic newspaper identified a woman looking through one of the vehicle windows covered by security screening as Garcia de Rayos.
Police posted on Twitter that they had arrested about seven protesters, but added that the demonstration was mainly peaceful. As of midday Thursday, Maldonado said six were still being held on civic disobedience charges.