Deportation returns Arizona to the center of the national immigration debate

Isaac Windes//February 13, 2017

Deportation returns Arizona to the center of the national immigration debate

Isaac Windes//February 13, 2017


Arizona is again at the center of the national debate over immigration enforcement, as one of the first people to be deported under President Trump’s expansive immigration policy was removed from the country last week.

Still reeling from the aftershocks of Arizona’s 2010 anti-immigration law, local and national Democratic politicians are struggling to figure out what Trump’s deportation policy will mean to local communities.

Guadalupe Garcia De Rayos, 36, an undocumented mother of two, was detained during a routine immigration check-in on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and deported the morning after according to a statement provided by ICE.

The deportation incited major protests that reverberated throughout the local and national community, sparking protests the following day and garnering statements from Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-AZ, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Rep. Juan Vargas, D- San Diego.

In his statement, Stanton said that he is saddened by the events that transpired, and that he was not willing to work with Trump to facilitate further efforts.

“As long as I am mayor, Phoenix will not participate in the 287 (g) program or enter into any other agreements with the Trump Administration that aim to advance his mass deportation plans,” Stanton said.  “[Garcia] has been peacefully living and working in the Valley for more than two decades, and by all accounts was building a life and contributing to our community.”

Gallego shared concerns about Trump separating families like Garcia and her two children.

“Donald Trump is cruelly ripping a mother and a breadwinner away from her American citizen children.  Instead of focusing on improving our economy or keeping Americans safe from real danger, the Trump administration’s policies are persecuting law abiding members of the immigrant community,” Gallego said.

Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, attorney for Garcia, said the deportation was directly tied to an executive order signed by President Trump.

“What that order did was create new priorities for deportation… Under Obama you would be deported for felonies, or major offenses. Under this order, you can be deported for minor offenses as well,” he said.

And he warned there will be more like her.

“With the expanded net that people are getting caught up in, and the expansion of up to 10,000 new ICE agents and the deputization of local authorities Guadalupe is just the first in an avalanche of similar cases.,” he said.

The statement also said that this was part of a routine court review. Garcia was caught in 2008 with a fake social security number she was using to work at a local theme park, a felony violation.

“Ms. Garcia, who has a prior felony conviction in Arizona for criminal impersonation, was the subject of a court-issued removal order that became final in July 2013,” ICE Public Affairs Officer Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in the statement. “Ms. Garcia’s 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 U.S.”

Garcia came from Mexico at the age of 14, and had been here for 22 years.

Family members, activists and community members sprang into action on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 8, protesting outside of the ICE facility. As a van, purportedly containing Garcia as well as other undocumented immigrants began to leave the facility protesters surrounded the van, with one man tying himself to the tire.

Francisca Porches, a member of the migrant justice organization Puente was among the protesters. She said that the protesters were out there to send a message to Trump, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

“We are here to support our loved ones,” Porches said. “We want to send a strong message to ICE, and to the city of Phoenix.”

Protests continued throughout the night, with seven arrests being made according to an official with the Phoenix police department. Porches said that they would continue to speak out against the actions in the future.

“The main message is that we aren’t going to take this lying down,” she said. “We are not going to let them kidnap and disappear our people.”

Just before midnight protesters took over Central Avenue before walking in front of an oncoming light rail train, causing it to stop.

Eduardo Samaniego, an immigrant’s rights activist studying Constitutional Law at Hampshire College said that deportations and charges like this are nothing new for the immigrant community.

“This administration is really just continuing the Obama legacy of deportation,” Samaniego said. “Obama and Trump said that they are just deporting criminals but that is a complete lie.”

Samaniego said that although Trump’s harsh rhetoric may shed new light on the immigration problems, the underlying fight has been going on for years.

“I wish Obama had fought as hard for immigrants as he promised, as Donald Trump is fighting against immigrants as he promised,” Samaniego said.

Samaniego also said that what happened to Garcia was representative of the whole immigrant community at large.

“What happened to Guadalupe is a reflection of our immigration system,” Samaniego said. “She was just one person of the 11 million.”

Samaniego said that protests like the outpouring on social media and in person for Garcia was necessary, but that it needed to go with legislative action.

“Marching and movement building is one of the pillars of change,” he said. “But it only works if it is hand in hand with legislative change.”

This isn’t the first time Arizona has made national headlines for questionable immigration enforcement. In 2010 Arizona drew national rebuke for the “show me your papers,” law, SB1070 that was touted by former Gov. Jan Brewer, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

That combined with the controversial immigration raids were scrutinized by courts, resulting in a criminal contempt charge against the former sheriff.

The same hardline tactics are reminiscent in the executive order that brought about the detainment and deportation of Garcia on Thursday.

Garcia’s daughter, Jacqueline, who was among the protesters Wednesday, reunited with her mother in Nogales, Mexico where they spoke at a press conference Thursday.

“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,” Garcia said. “I’m going to keep fighting so that they continue to study in their country, and so that their dreams become a reality.”

And her attorney warned the fight isn’t over.

“We want to look at her case from day one. It’s pretty complicated, but we are going to get a team together and see if there is any way that we can get her back,” he said.