As war drums bang in Washington, the Trump administration has deported the mom of a U.S. Army intelligence officer despite public attention and outcry. Rocío Rebollar Gómez – a Southern California homeowner, mom, and grandmother without a criminal record – was deported to Tijuana yesterday. Due to prior deportations and her subsequent returns to be with her family in the U.S., Rebollar Gómez was ineligible for asylum despite the fact that her brother was kidnapped and killed in Acapulco after cartel members extorted thousands of dollars from her family.
As Rebollar Gómez’s son, U.S. Army intelligence officer 2nd Lt. Gibram Cruz, said after her deportation: “I feel betrayed, to be honest. The sacrifices that my mother and I have done for my country have been in vain.”
To add insult to injury, Rebollar Gómez’s fence was recently vandalized with racist, anti-Mexican graffiti (see Univision video coverage of the disturbing vandalism here). As the Los Angeles Times reported:
The family spent the evening on New Year’s Day making posters. Rebollar Gomez’s grandchildren drew pictures of themselves with her on their signs. The oldest one drew a picture of the two of them at the zoo. While they were busy inside, someone came between about 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and vandalized Rebollar Gomez’s fence, writing a misspelled racist slur against Mexicans in brown spray paint.
For Cruz, the vandalism reinforced his worries that his mother, now famous from the news coverage of her case, would be even more of a target in Mexico for the cartels that had kidnapped her brother in Acapulco a few years ago. His body has still not been found.
The tragic outcome took place despite significant recent attention to the case in both Spanish and English media, many of whom covered the deportation (find excerpts below):
La Opinión quoted the military intelligencer officer son, Gibram Cruz:
They lied to me. They didn’t even let me say goodbye to her. I cannot cross the border because of my job, it’s too dangerous for her to be alone there. She doesn’t know anybody.
Univision quoted Rocío Rebollar Gómez:
They lied to my lawyer and my son, as soon as I got in they lowered me down to a basement. Once there, they put me in a car and brought me here (Tijuana).
Telemundo quoted Rocío Rebollar Gómez:
I hope that when I go to ICE they don’t deport me. I’ve lived here for 31 years. To separate from my family would be something terrible for all”. But she was deported to Tijuana minutes later, where she said: “I fear for my life, I fear for my health here in Tijuana.
She prayed for a miracle for the past 30 days as media attention around her case escalated. But in the end, the mother of a U.S. Army intelligence officer was deported on Thursday to Tijuana. The removal, based on previous deportations, had been scheduled for about a month, when her requests to be allowed to stay in the United States were denied. Despite that, Rocio Rebollar Gomez, 51, held out hope until the very last moment that the federal government would show her mercy and allow her to remain with her family.
“I’m only asking for an opportunity that they let me stay with my family, that they don’t separate us,” said Rebollar Gomez in Spanish shortly before her scheduled appointment to self-deport Thursday morning. “They’re separating me from my family forever. I don’t have a hope of seeing them after.”
…“Being far from your children that you’ve raised and given your life to, and being alone all of a sudden with nothing…. It’s not that you can’t keep going and push forward, but if they’ve taken away your motivation? If it’s stayed behind?” she said.
After his mother’s removal, Cruz headed back to her house to gather his belongings and begin a long drive. He has orders to report to Fort Hood in Texas on Friday. He’s already committed to at least three more years in the military.