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Arizona Mother’s Arrest May Signal Start of Trump’s Deportation Machine

Woman Deported to Mexico, Country She Left 21 Years Ago

Last night, US immigration authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, arrested Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an undocumented mother of two US citizen children; she was deported this morning. Garcia de Rayos was not in hiding. In fact, she walked into the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to check in, as she had every year for the past eight years. So what changed? The Trump administration’s executive order on immigration enforcement.

Puente's "Undocubus" took dozens of undocumented immigrants, who adopted the slogan, "No Papers, No Fear," from Phoenix, Arizona, to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the summer of 2012. © 2014 Platon for Human Rights Watch

Garcia de Rayos was arrested in 2008 by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a workplace raid targeting undocumented workers with fake papers. A federal judge later found the sheriff’s department had engaged in illegal racial profiling; another federal judge barred Arizona from charging people who seek work with fake papers with felony identity theft. Nevertheless, Garcia de Rayos, along with thousands of others, was convicted of a felony. While others were summarily deported as criminals, Garcia de Rayos’s community rallied around her and she won a stay of deportation under the Obama administration. When Human Rights Watch and Platon went to Arizona in 2013, we met and photographed her children, Jacqueline and Angel, just days after she won that stay.

The chaos resulting from President Trump’s executive order on refugees and entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries has deflected attention from the incredibly damaging executive orders Trump signed just days earlier about immigration enforcement. Garcia de Rayos’s arrest crystallizes what’s at stake: the indiscriminate branding of immigrants as criminals; millions of families broken up and separated; and communities torn apart by the loss of workers, caretakers, and homeowners.

Garcia de Rayos’s community continues to rally around her – 200 people came out to protest and seven people were arrested blocking the van transporting her. Immigrants like Garcia de Rayos, however, deserve more than community support. Local and state leaders around the country should stand up and declare they will not buy into Trump’s rhetoric around “criminal immigrants.” They can create programs like the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project providing legal representation to all immigrants in deportation proceedings, regardless of whether they have felony convictions like Garcia de Rayos. They can reinforce sanctuary policies that make clear local law enforcement is not involved in federal immigration enforcement, in the name of protecting public safety.

Everyone who stood up forcefully against Trump’s entry ban can and should stand up for Garcia de Rayos and millions of people like her.

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