Mother Facing Likely Deportation Takes Refuge In Denver Church

Source: Huffington Post

DENVER ― A mother of four facing possible deportation has taken refuge in a Denver church after customs officials denied a request to extend a stay on her deportation order.

Jeanette Vizguerra had been scheduled to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers Wednesday morning, something she’d done numerous times without incident since she arrived in the U.S. from Mexico nearly 20 years ago.

But this time it felt different, she said, so she decided to skip the appointment. Though ICE has granted her five previous stays while she applies for a U visa, a specific visa set aside for victims of violent crime, this time they stalled, then denied it at the last second, claiming it was because she didn’t appear Wednesday.

“We walked in and the lobby was full of armed ICE police, so it [seemed] very clear they were prepared to arrest her on the spot,” Rev. Anne Dunlap, who went to the ICE office instead of Vizguerra, told a crowd Wednesday morning. “We went upstairs with some of the staff, and … they denied her stay.”

“Their reasoning is because she didn’t appear today ― that’s why they denied her stay ― but we know that that’s not true, because they’ve had 69 days to respond to her application, which they could have done at the beginning,” she added. “They know her case; she’s not a stranger to them.”

MARC PISCOTTY VIA GETTY IMAGES
Undocumented immigrant and activist Jeanette Vizguerra, 45, hugs her youngest child Zury Baez, 6, while addressing supporters and the media as she seeks sanctuary at First Unitarian Church on February 15, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.

Vizguerra and her husband first came to the U.S. in 1997, fleeing violence in Mexico City, where her husband had been kidnapped three times while working as a bus driver.

She told The Washington Post her decision to seek sanctuary wasn’t an easy one. She has three children at home ― Luna, 12, Roberto, 10, and Zury, 6 ― who must now depend on the rest of her family, including her 26-year-old daughter, Tania Baez, for support.

Last week, she said, she sat her family down to walk through the emergency plan, including the possibility she’d seek refuge in a church. “My little one goes, ‘It’s OK, Mommy. In the church you’re safe,’” she recalled.

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