Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 15: Guadalupe García de Rayos

This is Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. Arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid for using a fake social security number,* she was recently deported in Arizona--for trying to work to support her family--leaving her husband and two American-born citizen children behind, because the new administration believes she's "a threat to public safety." Truly.

Guadalupe García de Rayos had been living in the US since she was 14 years old. After her arrest many years ago, she had been allowed to stay as long as she checked in annually with immigration officials, because the Obama administration focused on deporting immigrants who were a threat to public safety, had ties to gangs, or had committed serious felonies. In February de Rayos went to mass to say a prayer before going to her usual check-in, where she was detained and deported 24 hours later under Trump's executive order that prioritizes deportation of "criminals."

Traumatized, her teenage children tried to block the van that would carry her across the border. “I don’t think it’s fair that she was taken away from us. Her only crime was to work here so she could support us. She is a very kind person,” 14-year-old Jacqueline said. “She treats everyone like family. She hasn’t done anything to harm anyone.”

Her husband, Aaron Reyes, is also undocumented. “This is our country, because this is where we’ve lived most of our lives,” Reyes said. “We went to school here. This is where we met and got married. This is where we formed our lives and this is where our children were born.”

We will continue to see more families separated if the Republicans have their way. The new Department of Homeland Security considering a policy that would forcibly separate undocumented children from their parents at the U.S. border.

Ray Ybarra Maldonado, de Rayos' immigration attorney, said the order “has nothing to do with public safety” and “has everything to do with separating families." "All because she was trying to work to support herself and her kids – which is the same thing any of us would’ve done if we were in her situation – she was criminalized, given a class 6 felony and now she finds herself on the other side of the border,” Maldonado said.

For her part, de Rayos has no regrets for any of it, as she shared at a news conference from Nogales, Mexico:
"The truth is I was there [in the United States] for my children. For a better future. To work for them. And I don't regret it, because I did it for love. Trump is not harming the adults and the parents who get deported, but it's different for the children left behind in the United States...I am not what he says. I simply am a mother who fights for her children, who fights to give them the best...I'm going to keep fighting so that they continue to study in their country, and so that their dreams become a reality."
She's our Lenten hero of the day. Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

*Undocumented workers are often forced to buy fake social security cards so they can work. Contrary to what Republicans would have us believe, undocumented workers pay $12 billion in taxes each year, adding value to the U.S. economy and funding public schools and other government services but not being able to tap into benefits such as social security.

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