Immigrant Arrested While Seeking Domestic-Abuse Protection

Deportations are nothing new. But these stories of people targeted under Trump are.

Jeannette Vizguerra and one of her daughters. — Getty Images
Feb 16, 2017 at 2:34 PM ET

A woman arrested while seeking protection from her alleged abuser, a Dreamer with no criminal record, and a grandmother hiding in a church are all recent stories of immigration enforcement under Trump.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants aren’t new under the Trump — the Obama administration actually deported more of them than any other president — but the people they are targeting and where they are happening has changed.

ICE raids across the country over the past few weeks resulted in nearly 700 arrests. Seventy-five percent of the arrestees were classified as “criminal aliens” by the Department of Homeland Security, though, as CNN reported, it wasn’t clear how many were convicted of violent felonies — which the Obama administration prioritized going after — and how many had less serious offenses on their records.

Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant who lives in Denver, is hoping to avoid a similar fate. As the New York Times reports, Vizguerra was caught using false documents to get work in 2009. She pled guilty to a misdemeanor and checked in with ICE regularly. A mother of three minor children and one adult daughter, she has no felony convictions and is the kind of sympathetic figure that the Obama administration tended to overlook. Over the years, she was granted several postponements of deportation. On Wednesday, her request for another was denied.

Vizguerra is now living in a local church that has offered her sanctuary. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be there, but she has good reason to believe it’s necessary to stay as long as she wants to remain in America.

Last Thursday, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Mexican national who came to America when she was 14 and now has two children who are U.S. citizens, was deported amid protests. Her status was known to authorities since 2008, when she was convicted of felony criminal impersonation for using a fake social security number to get a job. Then Trump became president, and Garcia de Rayos was gone.

The same day, a woman who was in an El Paso court to obtain a restraining order against her alleged abuser was arrested by ICE agents at the courthouse, according to the El Paso Times. ICE was acting on a tip (the woman’s lawyer believes it came from the man her client alleged was abusing her) and said the woman had a criminal record and several past deportations. The fact that she was detained while trying to protect herself from an alleged abuser may, her lawyer fears, scare other people in a similar situation from seeking help.

A day later, last Friday, Daniel Ramirez Medina, who has no criminal record and was authorized to work in America under the Obama administration’s “Dreamer” program, was arrested at his father’s house. He remains in detention almost a week later, raising questions about how safe other Dreamers are.

Currently, federal policy is for ICE agents to avoid churches unless it is “absolutely necessary.” There’s no guarantee that policy will continue under the new regime. And ICE agents recently arrested a group of people as they came out of a church from which they were seeking shelter from the cold. For now, at least, Vizguerra intends to stay in the church. She decorated her room with a Valentine from her six-year-old daughter.

“I could be here days, months, maybe even years,” she told the Times.