For the last eight years, Guadalupe García de Rayos checked in at a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix, Arizona. Each time, the mother of two was able to return to her home after a review of her case and some questioning. But 2017, just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order on deportations, was different.
On Wednesday, during a routine check-in with ICE, she was arrested, and started the process of being sent back to Mexico, where the 35-year-old was born but left 21 years ago, at age 14.
On Thursday, García de Rayos became one of the first victims of Trump’s controversial order, which requires undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of, or perceived involvement in, a criminal offense to be prioritized for deportation.
She is an example of the order's contentious scope. In 2008, García de Rayos was charged with possessing false papers after a raid at a Mesa amusement park where she worked. Despite the arrest, the woman, who was never charged with a violent crime, wasn't targeted under the Obama administration, which emphasized deporting undocumented immigrants convicted of violent offenses. Instead, García de Rayos remained in Arizona and was ordered to have annual check-ins.
Despite Trump’s claims of “bad hombres,” it is mothers like García de Rayos who are torn apart from their families as a result of his order.
"It's not fair that my mom might be taken away for providing for my family," the woman’s 14-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, said in a statement circulated by Puente Arizona on Wednesday, when her mother's whereabouts were unknown. "Working should not be a crime. I'm asked if I am ready to have my mom taken away, but no one is every ready (sic) to have their mom taken away."
She was one of several protestors that surrounded a van carrying García de Rayos on Wednesday night. Demonstrators shouted, "Liberation, not deportation." Some held signs. Jacqueline's read, "Not one more deportation." One man, Manuel Saldana, tied himself to one of the vehicle's front wheels, saying, "I’m going to stay here as long as it takes.”
Police officers in helmets eventually cut off ties holding Saldana to the wheel and arrested six other people who were blocking the van from moving. Once gone, the vehicle reversed and rolled back into the building.
It is unclear whether the van, which held other detainees, was headed to a detention center or Mexico. At midnight on Thursday, the woman's husband said he did not know where his wife was. However, another vehicle later left the ICE building under police supervision, and he believes she may have been one of the passengers.
“We’re living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants,” García de Rayos’ lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, said Wednesday.
This conflict, Carlos García, the director of Puente, believes could prevent other nonviolent undocumented immigrants on supervision like García de Rayos from checking in. According to him, "ICE had done what President Trump wanted – which is deport and separate our families."
Jacqueline, who said she's "not scared of [Trump]," told reporters she wouldn’t stop fighting "until I get my mom back."