Family members of detained undocumented immigrants speak out

Santa Fe immigrants rights group claims many detainees had no previous deportations or criminal history

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Attorney Damian Lara speaks with community members after a press conference organized by Familias Unidas Por Justicia Tuesday at the San Juan Unitarian Universalist Church in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — An immigrants rights group is alleging that at least eight undocumented immigrants were detained last week in the Farmington area.

Familias Unidas por Justicia, the local branch of the Santa Fe-based immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, brought family members of those undocumented immigrants together on Tuesday for a press conference at the San Juan Unitarian Universalist Church in Farmington.

Neza Leal, a spokesman for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said the group has confirmed that at least eight immigrants were detained last week. He said many of those immigrants were longtime Farmington-area residents with no previous deportations or criminal history.

One of those immigrants was Maria Viveros, who came to the United States more than 20 years ago from Uruapan, Michoacán.

Her daughter, Tzairet Viveros, said she watched as her mother was surrounded by six Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, two San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputies and two U.S. marshals on Friday.

Tzairet Viveros speaks during a press conference organized by Familias Unidas Por Justicia Tuesday at the San Juan Unitarian Universalist Church in Farmington.

“In this moment is when they ripped our hearts from our chest and stomped on them over and over,” Tzairet Viveros said.

San Juan County Undersheriff Shane Ferrari said in an email to The Daily Times that two patrol deputies aided ICE agents shortly after 8 a.m. Friday at a residence on Southside River Road in Farmington. He said the ICE agents contacted the Sheriff’s Office about a wanted subject barricaded inside a house.

Ferrari said ICE had notified the Sheriff’s Office earlier in the week that agents would be executing several arrest warrants in San Juan County.

He said the agents were looking for a Maria Rosario Gonzales, who had an active federal arrest warrant. Ferrari said she refused to come out of the house. Ferrari said after a short time, Rosario Gonzales complied with orders to leave the house.

Tzairet Viveros claims the woman who was detained was not Rosario Gonzales, but her mother, Maria Viveros, whose maiden name is similar to Rosario Gonzales’ name.

“They have taken an innocent woman who has done nothing wrong,” Tzairet Viveros said. “They have taken the backbone and the glue that holds this family together.”

Jesus Valdez, who says his wife was detained last week by federal agents, speaks with community members during a press conference Tuesday at the San Juan Unitarian Universalist Church in Farmington.

ICE representatives did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Times today about the incidents described at the press conference.

Jesús Valdez claimed his wife was detained the afternoon of Sept. 20 while he was at work. The Sheriff's Office was not involved in that incident.

Leal said many of the people detained were charged with illegal re-entry, but he said they had not had previous deportations.

Valdez said his wife called him and told him that agents were at the house and asked him what to do. He told her not to open the door and encouraged her to wait for his cousin. Valdez said he called his cousin, who went to the house and got his 9-year-old son. The child was playing outside with friends when the officers arrived at their house.

Valdez alleged that the officers pointed a gun at his wife’s head when they detained her.

“My wife was the pillar of our family, and now we are left without her,” Valdez said.

Another woman at the press conference, Rosario Zurita, spoke about how her husband’s arrest late last week has affected her two children, who are both U.S. citizens.

“My children ask about him a lot, and I don’t know what to tell them,” she said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at