Immigration officials deported a mother who had been in the U.S. illegally since she was 14 years old on Thursday, in what some activists say is the first deportation under the new immigration policies of President Donald Trump.
Guadalupe García de Rayos was removed from the country to Nogales, Mexico after authorities attempted to deport her late Wednesday. They were unable to move the van she was in because protesters were blocking it. One man wedged himself in the wheel well.
Her attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado said he and her family learned of her deportation through the Mexican consulate.
“I think this is a direct result of the new executive orders that are being put into action, President Trump calling them enhancing public safety which really appears only to be attacking immigrant communities and attacking people of color,” Ybarra said.
President Donald Trump signed executive orders Jan. 25 that expanded who it considers a criminal to include people who have used false Social Security information, which many immigrants here illegally do to work. The orders also consider people criminals even if they have not been convicted of a crime and gives greater discretion to immigration officers to decide who to deport.
García de Rayos has two U.S. citizen children. She was convicted of criminal impersonation for using a fake Social Security number to work while illegally in the U.S. Her attorney said to his knowledge there was not a victim in her case who claimed the number. "It was a random number that she made," he said.
She was initially arrested in a raid conducted by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2008 when she worked at Golf Land in Phoenix, Ybarra said.
Her attorney said a decision in a lawsuit challenging Arpaio's tactics used for raids should have kept immigration officials from using against his client the I-9 employment form she had filled out. But Ybarra said he has been unable to get information about the case from ICE.
García de Rayos was detained when she went to the ICE office for a routine check-in with officials on Wednesday. Ybarra said he asked whether she would be “taken in” and was told by officials they didn’t know. “I think they were lying to me. I think they already knew,” he said.
He said the family knew it was a possibility that she could be detained, but she took the chance anyway.
In a statement, federal officials cited García's conviction and the order of removal she was issued in 2013. The statement issued by ICE, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, said her case underwent multiple reviews in the immigration system, including the Board of Appeals, "and the judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S."
ICE said it would continue focusing on individuals with felony convictions who have final orders of removal.
Former President Barack Obama had attempted to allow parents of U.S. citizens to remain in the U.S. and allow them to work through executive action. But Republicans opposed the action and sued, bogging the program down in the courts.
Under Obama, deportations were handled under a priority system and under that system García was not a high priority for deportation, thus allowing her to remain in the U.S. Obama's deportation policies also were criticized, but Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona, said what is happening now appears to be an escalation.
Activists are warning others who may also have such regular contact with ICE to beware.
“Anyone who has to check in or expects to have contact with ICE, they now know how ICE is going to act,” said Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona.
Ybarra also said he would advise other clients to look for a church offering sanctuary or that “if you show up this is what’s going to happen to you.”
"I think we are going to see more and more people," said Carlos García, director of Puente Arizona.
The office of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he had asked for a briefing on the case so could not immediately provide comment in response to a request from NBC News. NBC News also reached out to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but had not received an immediate response. Maldonado said McCain's office inquired about the case but did not get a response from ICE.
Francisca Porchas, organizing director for Puente Human Rights Movement, said García's deportation and the attempt to remove her outside of public view is “re-traumatizing” the Latino and immigrant community in Arizona.
“These are people who lived under the Arpaio reign of the last decade,” Porchas said. “We’ve been living under (the equivalent of) Trump for a long time. For us Arpaio became president Nov. 8.”