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In recent days, Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda has been taking clearer shape, as stories about deportations continue to bubble up across the country. Below is a roundup of four detention or deportation cases from this month which all share these characteristics: each involves a mother or father who has been in the US for decades, who has no criminal record, who takes care of US citizen children — and who has an existing deportation order.
In previous presidential administrations, having a deportation order was not seen as an important reason for removal if the person in question had a clean record. All of the four cases below should have been low-priority cases for detention and deportation. However, as John Sandweg, former acting general counsel for DHS under President Obama said this week, “What’s very clear that’s happening is that they have put a strong emphasis to the officers and agents to focus on people who are ordered deported and didn’t leave the country.”
Isabel (a pseudonym) is a single mother and the sole caretaker for her disabled son, a US citizen with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and her 86-year-old mother, a legal resident working on becoming a citizen. Isabel came to legally to the US more than 20 years ago on a fiancee visa, but then chose not to marry. She had previously received four one-year stays of deportation, and checked in with ICE regularly — but last month ICE informed her that its “priorities have shifted” and that she would be forced to leave. Isabel is active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and her son had recently submitted an application to serve a Mormon service mission. Despite protests from the church, Isabel was deported to Colombia late Thursday night.
Maribel Trujillo Diaz is a mother of four who came to the US in 2002 because her family had been targeted by Mexican cartels. ICE unexpectedly arrived at her brother’s house this week and took her into custody without allowing her to say goodbye to her children. The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is asking supporters to contact Ohio Governor John Kasich’s case to ask him to intervene and keep the family together.
As her lawyer, Kathleen Kersh, a staff attorney with the Ohio-based Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, said:
Maribel doesn’t present a threat to public safety, she has lived here peacefully since 2002 with no criminal record. All these efforts to detain and remove her draw a big question mark over Trump’s immigration strategy – this is not making America safer, it’s leaving four American kids without their mom.
Leandro Arriaga, who came to the US in 2001, made a living fixing and remodeling homes, and has four children. He and four others were picked up at a USCIS office in Lawrence, Massachusetts last week even though none of them have criminal records besides traffic offenses. Arriaga and at least one other person were trying to obtain legal status through their marriages to US citizens — and advocates are worried that cases like his will scare immigrants who have the option, away from attempting to legalize their status.
Said Avideh Moussavian, senior policy attorney for the National Immigration Law Center:
It injects a sense of fear into the process that shouldn’t be there for people who are otherwise going forward with their application that they’re entitled to pursue. They’re now being sent this message that they should be very, very afraid and very cautious.
Roberto Beristain crossed the border in 1998, married a US citizen, and had four children. For almost two decades — through three US presidential administrations — ICE declined to forcibly remove him, allowing Beristain to simply drop by for annual check-ins. He was allowed to obtain a driver’s license, social security card, and work permit. He bought a small restaurant business that employed 20 people. He contributed to a conservative, small-town community that loved him. His wife voted for Trump, believing that there was no cause to remove someone like her husband. But in February, Beristain was abruptly detained during his annual check-in — and was moved around multiple times by ICE despite immigration attorneys attempting to bring his case in front of a judge. He was deported on Wednesday.