NOGALES – After a whirlwind 48 hours during which she was detained, deported and taken to a migrant shelter in Mexico, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was temporarily reunited with her children.
The Mesa mother, one of the first undocumented immigrants to be deported under President Donald Trump’s executive order, was thrust into the national spotlight when protestors gathered outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Phoenix.
Garcia de Rayos, 35, was detained by ICE agents during a routine appointment on Wednesday and deported to Mexico Thursday morning. Speaking at a soup kitchen in Nogales, she said she has no regrets about coming to the U.S. or going to her ICE appointment to check in as required.
“I came here (to the U.S.) for my kids, a better future (for them), to work for them, and I don’t regret it because I did it with love for them,” Garcia said in Spanish an an impromptu press conference.
Garcia arrived in the the United States when she was 14 years old. She was arrested during a workplace raid at a waterpark in 2008 and convicted of criminal impersonation for using a fake social security number.
After spending three months in the Maricopa County Jail and three months in the Florence Detention Center, she received an Order of Supervision and was allowed to return to her family in Mesa. She checked in regularly with immigration officials for eight years as a condition of her release until this week when she was deported.
“No teenager should ever have to go through this,” said Angel Rayos, 16. “It’s a nightmare having your mother taken away from you. The person who’s always there for you, gone. Seeing her get taken away in a bunch of vans like she was like a huge criminal. It’s just the worst thing.”
The teen and his 14-year-old sister are both U.S. citizens.
“We don’t deserve to go through this. No family should deserve to go through this. Because really it’s heartbreaking. No one should feel this pain, no one should go through this much suffering,” said Jacqueline Rayos, Garcia’s 14-year-old daughter.
Rev. Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, said he read about Garcia de Rayos’ situation Thursday morning and shortly after, he heard she would be staying at the organization’s shelter in Mexico.
“She’s working. She’s supporting her family,” Carroll said. “There’s this assumption that immigration law works and I think what’s happened to her is an example to us that our immigration system is broken. And we really need are laws and policies that keep families together and respect the dignity of the person.”
Under President Donald Trump’s executive order, undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense are considered a priority. In a statement released by ICE, the agency noted “relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia de Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for felony impersonation.”
Garcia said if former President Barack Obama was still in office, she likely would not have been deported and would have continued to check in with ICE officials while be allowed to stay with her U.S. citizen children.
She and her family holds out hope they will be reunited on the Arizona side of the border.
“We’re going to keep fighting. We’ll continue to keep encouraging people (like me),” she said.
Garcia de Rayos left the soup kitchen with her two children in a minivan headed to a migrant shelter, where she is staying temporarily in Nogales, Mexico. Her children returned to Mesa.
“Seeing her made me want to fight until I get her home with me and I’m not going to stop fighting for her. I just love her so much,” Jacqueline Rayos said.
“Today, they’ve separated us, but I know with the help from God and the help from other people, one day we’ll be back together,” said Garcia de Rayos
(Video by Katie Bieri/Cronkite News)