Attorney: Woman at center of Phoenix immigration fight deported

Daniel González
The Arizona Republic
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was locked in a van that was stopped in the street by protesters outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Phoenix. Her attorney said the Mexican consulate informed him the Garcia de Rayos was deported to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

PHOENIX — An Arizona mother at the epicenter of the national debate over immigration enforcement has been deported, her attorney announced Thursday.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, of Mesa, Ariz., was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon during a routine check-in at the central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For four years, federal immigration authorities had given her a pass to remain in the U.S. rather than deport her back to Mexico.

But her attorney, Ray Ybarra-Maldonado, said the Mexican consulate had informed him Garcia de Rayos was deported to Nogales, Sonora, on Thursday.

After she was taken into custody Wednesday, her husband, two U.S.-born children and supporters worried that Garcia de Rayos, would be deported quickly to Mexico. That, they say, would make her among the first casualties under a shift in policy by ICE under President Donald Trump.

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Asked about the deportation at Thursday's White House briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer referred questions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"That's an ICE matter," said Spicer. "The situation is developing in Arizona right now."

The deportation drew swift criticism from critics of Trump's executive actions on immigration.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said Garcia de Rayos’ deportation is a “tragedy” for her family.

“Donald Trump is cruelly ripping a mother and a breadwinner away from her American citizen children,” he said in a statement Thursday. “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. … These are productive and contributing members of the Phoenix community and we will not stand by as Trump implements his bigoted policies.”

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton issued a statement calling the detention and deportation of Garcia de Rayos “a travesty.” He said it shows that Trump’s deportation policies make the country less safe.

“Rather than tracking down violent criminals and drug dealers, ICE is spending its energy deporting a woman with two American children who has lived here for more than two decades and poses a threat to nobody,” said Stanton.

Stanton’s statement comes as pro-immigrant activists are pushing him to designate Phoenix a “sanctuary city” to stop local police from enforcing state and federal immigration law. Stanton opposed that status last week.

7 arrested in protests

The news followed an evening of protest outside ICE offices in Phoenix. Seven people were arrested Wednesday night during demonstrations. Protesters had been trying to block federal vehicles from leaving the grounds, including one carrying Garcia de Rayos.

The effort was organized by Puente Arizona, the group known for blocking roads surrounding a Trump campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Ariz., last year.

In a written statement, ICE officials confirmed that Garcia de Rayos had been detained based on a prior removal order issued by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review. The order became final in May 2013.

"Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia De Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation,” the statement said.

They did not comment on whether they diverged from the previous check-in specifically because of the recent executive order.

The felony conviction stems from a 2008 work-site raid by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Ybarra-Maldonado said.

► Related:Mayor: Phoenix can't be a sanctuary city

He said Garcia de Rayos came to the U.S. in 1996, when she was 14.

In 2008, she was swept up in one of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio's work-site raids targeting the Golfland Entertainment Centers, which operated several water and mini-golf parks. Sheriff's deputies seized hundreds of employment records and later arrested Garcia de Rayos at her house in Mesa. She pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony, the lowest level.

As a result of the charge, Garcia de Rayos was then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ybarra-Maldonado said. She spent six months in ICE custody at the Eloy Detention Center, he said.

In 2013, an immigration judge found Garcia de Rayos had no legal stance to remain in the U.S. and issued a voluntary departure instructing her to leave the country, Ybarra-Maldonado said.

After Garcia de Rayos appealed the voluntary departure, ICE gave her an order of supervision instructing her to check in yearly, and then every six months, Ybarra-Maldonado said.

Check-in ended in deportation

Garcia de Rayos was scheduled for her six month check-in Wednesday but instead of being told to come back in six months, she was taken into custody, he said.

Ybarra-Maldonado immediately filed documents asking ICE to stay her deportation, on the grounds that she has lived in the U.S. since she was 14, has two children who are U.S. citizens, and she is fighting to have her felony conviction thrown out on the grounds that Arpaio's work-site raids were unconstitutional.

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He also pointed out that she had been just a few months too old to apply for former president Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program granting deportation deferments and work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Her felony conviction, though, most likely would have disqualified her from that program.

"She's built a great life for herself and her children, and her kids want her to be home at night. Her kids want her to take them to school, to be at the parent-teacher conference, to see them go to prom, and to see them graduate, and more than anything she deserves to live a life she has built."

Outside the Phoenix ICE facility Wednesday night, Maria Castro, 23, stood in support of the family.

"Lupita was a victim of Arpaio's raids," she said, "and now she is a victim of Trump 's deportation machine."

Contributing: Brenna Goth and Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic; David M. Jackson, USA TODAY. Follow Daniel González​ on Twitter: @azdangonzalez