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The Faces of Deportation in 2017

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More than 41,000 people – our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues – have been targets of increased immigration enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2017, deportation arrests increased 37.6 percent over the same period in 2016.

In his first year, Trump has overhauled immigration enforcement and opened the gate for roundups and detentions in an unprecedented and alarming scale. Far from solely targeting “bad hombres,” the damaging effects from Trump’s aggressive anti-immigrant crackdown is reflected in this brief list of deportations and family separations from 2017:

Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, 46, is a married mother of four children and homeowner with no criminal history. Her oldest child is a DACA Dreamer and the other three are U.S. citizens by birth. Maria worked as a certified full-time nurse and had no criminal history. Her daughter’s DACA status will expire in August and she could face deportation. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the Sanchez family “the epitome of the American Dream” and called the removal of law-abiding parents “a travesty” that contradicted Trump’s stated goal of targeting immigrants with no criminal records. After numerous court battles and a private bill authored by Feinstein, DHS denied Maria’s application for a deportation stay, and she returned to Mexico with her husband and young son, leaving her children behind.

Jesus Lara López, 37, is a married father of four children who had been in the U.S. since 2001. ICE permitted him to stay in 2008, but later issued him a deportation order even though Jesus had no criminal history. Despite a national advocacy campaign and pleas from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lara López was deported to Chiapas, Mexico. “We’re witnessing a human tragedy, these are unnecessary wounds that are being inflicted,” Sen. Brown said. “Martin Luther King said the moral arc of the universe is long but bends to justice. There is no justice here this morning.”

Rahim Mohamed, 32, a married father of two U.S. citizen children, has lived in the U.S. since 2002 with no criminal history. Mohamed was detained after reporting for his regular immigration check at a federal building in Atlanta. He was among 92 Somali immigrants ICE kept chained on an airplane for 46 hours in “slave ship” conditions during a botched deportation attempt. After ICE forced him to miss the birth of his daughter, he awaits deportation from a Miami detention facility. More Somalis are being deported in similar fashion now than any other time.

Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez, 46, was forced to leave behind his American-born wife, U.S. citizen son and three stepchildren, including his 28-year-old disabled stepson, after being deported to Mexico. Despite being the primary daily caretaker of his wheelchair-bound son who suffers from severe intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy, ICE denied the deportation stay for Hernandez-Ramirez. “Deporting Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez makes no sense,” said Judy Mark, the president of Disability Voices United. “If ICE cannot open its heart on a case like this and do the right thing, I don’t know what it takes for them to show compassion,” the family’s attorney David Leopold said. 

José Escobar, 31, who is married to a U.S. born wife and father to two small children, was deported to El Salvador after attending his annual check-in at a Houston immigration office. He previously qualified for temporary protected status (TPS) and was first granted a provisional stay of deportation and work permit in 2012. Together, he and his wife worked hard to build a small business and pay a mortgage. Now, Escobar is unable to support his family and struggles in El Salvador, one of the most dangerous countries in the world controlled by violent gangs.   

Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, was detained by immigration agents in Texas after she passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint while being transported by ambulance to a hospital for emergency gallbladder surgery. Border Patrol agents followed the ambulance and five fully armed uniformed agents waited outside her room until she was discharged, before forcing the sick child to remain for 10 days at a San Antonio immigration detention center without her parents or guardian. “It is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living in the United States to be arrested – particularly one with a serious medical condition,” reported the New York Times. Rosa Maria has the cognitive capacity of a 6-year-old child, and had never been away from her family before. Only after a national outcry from community advocates and Congress, physicians and lawyers, did ICE free Rosa Maria from federal custody.

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, is considered to be the first DACA DREAMer deported under the Trump administration. Brought to the U.S. when Montes was 9, he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, has a cognitive disability, was enrolled in special education classes through high school, and worked as a farmworker. Montes accidentally left his work permit and wallet in a friend’s car when he was stopped by a Border Patrol agent at a taxi station in Calexico, California. Without identification and despite notifying agents of his DACA status and having no criminal history, immigration officials walked him across the border into Mexico.

Nina Chaubal, 25, a transgender woman and Indian national with an invalid work visa, was detained by Border Patrol while traveling through an Arizona checkpoint. Under ICE policy, immigration officials may still elect to house transgender women in men’s facilities – placing them at exceptionally high risk of sexual assault and other kinds of trauma and abuse. Chaubal gained release from detention by mobilizing a small army of supporters through social networks and through Trans Lifeline, a hotline for transgender people she created with her wife, who is also transgender. Undocumented transgender people subject to deportation fear the torture, sexual violence and persecution encountered in their home countries.

Roberto Beristain, 44, was a married father of four U.S. citizen children and a small business owner who provided jobs and economic benefit to his community in Mishawaka, Indiana. Beristain had no criminal history and had been a U.S. resident for 20 years. Due to an incorrect classification by immigration authorities during a family vacation to Canada, he was deported back to Mexico. ICE ripped Beristain away from his family and business, depriving him of the opportunity to provide for his wife and children.

Nixon Arias, 31, had worked for a Florida landscaping company for nine years and damaged three herniated or damaged disks from a work-related accident. Walking or sitting was a struggle due to severe pain. After extensive therapy and medication, his doctor recommended an expensive surgery. After his insurance company learned Arias had been using a deceased man’s Social Security number, they rejected his surgery and all past and future care, and tipped off Florida’s insurance fraud unit. After dropping his sons off at school, Arias was arrested while his toddler watched from his car seat. He was deported to Honduras after spending a year and a half in jail and immigration detention. Insurers have been known to report immigrants in order to avoid paying for their lost wages and medical care when they’re injured. Florida’s insurance fraud unit has even conducted sweeps of worksites, arresting immigrants who haven’t been injured for workers’ comp fraud just because they were using the wrong Social Security numbers.

Gaston Cazares, 45, lived in the San Diego area for almost 30 years with his U.S. citizen wife and two children, one of whom is autistic and heavily dependent upon his father. In 2012, Cazares was granted a “stay of removal” after a 2011 ICE raid at a restaurant determined he used false information to work. Despite having no other criminal history, during his compliance with a yearly immigration check in, Cazares was arrested and deported back to Mexico. Permanently barred from returning to the U.S., he remains hopeful that he can reunite with his family.

Guadalupe García de Rayos, 35, a married mother of two U.S. citizen children, was arrested in 2008 by former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio during the first raid under an Arizona law authorizing sanctions against employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. Her deportation case was later placed on hold until immigration officials knocked on her door and placed handcuffs on her wrists in front of her startled children. A small army of Puente volunteers accompanied Rayos to her immigration appointment but were not able to prevent her from being taken into custody. Protesters surrounded and blocked the ICE van. Furious agents then locked her in a room, shackled her, and dropped her off in Mexico, a country she hadn’t seen in 21 years. “Nobody should have to pack her mother’s bag,” her daughter said, her lips quivering, tears filling her eyes. “It isn’t fair.” Ms. Rayos’ family continues to struggle in her absence.

André Brown, 39, is the head of a blended family with his U.S. citizen wife and two American children and stepchildren. Since 2012, Brown had dutifully attended bi-monthly immigration check-in meetings in accordance to his pending application filed by his wife to obtain legal status. Despite no criminal history and “following all the rules and regulations,” ICE agents arrested Brown during a routine immigration check-in and deported him to Barbados, permanently separating him from his family.

John Cunningham, 38, was a small business owner and prominent Irishman living in the Boston area for 18 years. He worked hard on his electrical contracting business and paid his taxes. Cunningham advocated for years for immigration reform and also served as chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Association at the Irish Culture Centre in Canton. Federal immigration officials deemed Cunningham an “enforcement priority” because he overstayed a 90-day visa by more than a decade. With no criminal history other than a missed court hearing for a $1,300 customer dispute, Cunningham was deported back to Ireland. “If John Cunningham is not safe, no one is safe,” said Ronnie Miller, the executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston.

Military Veterans. This past Memorial Day, six U.S. military veterans stood near the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez, México to honor fallen service members. Using a U.S. flag perched along combat boots on a concrete cylinder, the men wore black t-shirts emblazoned with the words: “Deported Veterans.” U.S. officials do not keep statistics on deported veterans, so the exact number of removals is unclear. Three percent – more than 500,000 – of the nearly 19 million U.S. veterans are foreign-born. Under the Trump administration, “veteran deportations appear to be happening more frequently” said Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer and an Anchorage-based immigration lawyer.

Melecio Andazola Morales, 41, was the sole provider for his four U.S. born citizen children and the full-time caretaker for his 2-year-old daughter, who has epilepsy, and his mother. During a final approval interview for obtaining legal permanent residency, USCIS advised his daughter, Viviana Andazola Marquez, that he had been recommended for approval. Yet, he was immediately arrested and placed into deportation proceedings. Later, Morales gained national attention through a New York Times op-ed penned by his daughter, a senior at Yale University: “I Accidentally Turned My Dad In to Immigration Services.” (Her college admission essay describing her academic challenges while dealing with homelessness, was also featured in The New York Times). Despite help from two Colorado Democratic congressmen and a national outcry, Morales was deported to Mexico on December 15, right before the Christmas holidays.

Isabel” was a 20-year Utah resident with no criminal history, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), and the sole caretaker of her 18-year-old son with cerebral palsy, as well as her 86-year-old mother. (Her friends used a pseudonym to protect the woman’s privacy and that of her family.) In 1977, she received a deportation order but due to her son’s special needs, she was granted permission to stay in the U.S. with required immigration check-ins. Despite the support of Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and the Colombian Consulate in San Francisco, and even with a protest at the airport by Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG), Salt Lake Indivisible, Action Utah, and other concerned citizens, “Isabel” was deported to Colombia. MWEG criticized ICE for wasting resources, time, and manpower to go after “low-hanging fruit” pursuing a woman with no criminal record needed by her family.

Maribel Trujillo Diaz, 42, a mother of four U.S. born children (including her 3-year-old daughter who suffers from epileptic seizures) with no criminal history, was deported to Mexico. Despite the overwhelming international attention and support from Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Washington politicians, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and national advocacy groups, ICE chose not to exercise prosecutorial discretion to stay Maribel’s deportation. Maribel originally came to the US to flee violence from Mexico’s gang-ridden west coast state of Michoacán, and filed for asylum after her father and brother were kidnapped and her mother extorted. Upon her recent return to Mexico, Maribel has already received death threats.