Deportation of Arizona Woman Becomes Flashpoint for Immigration Protests

PHOENIX (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

A Phoenix woman in the country illegally who was considered a low priority for deportation by the Obama administration has been taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported to Mexico.

Immigrant advocates say her detention and deportation reflects the severity of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, had lived in the U.S. since she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid ordered by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at Golfland Sunsplash amusement park in Mesa, Ariz., and convicted of felony identity theft for possessing false papers.

A mother of two, she continued to live in Arizona, and checked in with ICE every six months. On her scheduled meeting Wednesday morning, she arrived at the ICE field office in Phoenix surrounded by supporters. An immigration attorney later told the crowd outside that Garcia de Rayos had been arrested.

“We all knew something could be different this time with the new administration,” said Carlos Garcia, director of the immigrant advocacy group Puente Arizona. “She went in with the lawyer and didn’t come out. That was pretty much all there was.”

On Wednesday night, three protesters blocked the path of a van carrying Garcia de Rayos while chanting, “Not one more.”

ICE officials confirmed the detention on Wednesday. “Ms. Garcia de Rayos is currently being detained by ICE based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013,” the agency said in a news release.

The de Rayos case is an early indication of the reach of an executive order by President Donald Trump on Jan. 25, which expanded deportation priorities to include any immigrants in the country illegally who had been convicted of a criminal offense, regardless of its severity. Previous orders by President Barack Obama prioritized violent offenders.

Puente Arizona filed a stay-of-removal request with ICE. In the stay request, Puente Arizona argued that the original arrest and charge against Garcia de Rayos were unconstitutional, and should not be grounds for removal.

The request was denied late Wednesday. She was deported to Nogales, Mexico, early Thursday, said her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonado.

Ybarra Maldonado had accompanied Garcia de Rayos into the ICE field office, worried that she might be detained because of the new executive order.

“It’s no fun walking someone to the slaughter, he said, adding, “There are a hundred people in harm’s way with similar backgrounds to Guadalupe.”

At a news conference in front of the ICE field office in Phoenix on Thursday, immigration activists demanded that new Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, a Democrat who defeated Arpaio in November’s election, remove ICE agents from the main Phoenix jail on the city’s Fourth Avenue.

“We want nothing of Arpaio’s culture still there,” said Carlos Garcia, director of the immigrant-advocacy group Puente Arizona. “Get ICE out of the Fourth Avenue Jail. Stop running people booked through immigration background checks.”