(DENVER) — An undocumented mother of four who has lived in Denver, Colorado, for 20 years took refuge in a church Wednesday after U.S. immigration officials rejected her request to remain in the country.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Jeanette Vizguerra, 45, said she skipped her scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier out of fear that she would be deported.
She has three U.S.-born children — Luna, 12, Roberto, 10, and Zury, 6 — and a 26-year-old Mexican-born daughter, Tania Baez, who reportedly is not a citizen by birth, but has a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Vizguerra, a native of Mexico and an immigrant rights activist, said she plans to live in the basement bedroom of the First Unitarian Society in Denver until she has legal documents that allow her to walk freely.
Taking refuge in a church is a common tactic to avoid deportation.
Under U.S. government policy, immigration authorities are supposed to avoid entering places of worship and other “sensitive locations,” unless they have prior approval from a supervisor or face “exigent circumstances” that demand immediate action.
Vizguerra’s attorney, Hans Meyer, said the government had granted his client six stays of removal since she was ordered to leave the country in November 2011.
Meyer said Vizguerra also has a pending U-Visa application she filed 13 months ago. U-Visas are typically set aside for victims of certain crimes and people who are helpful to law enforcement.
Vizguerra was allegedly the victim of a past assault.
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said Vizguerra was an “enforcement priority” based on two misdemeanor convictions, including what her lawyer says is the common practice of using a fake social security number to get a job.
Meyer said he blames President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, which he says eliminated due process.
“She’s not a danger to the United States. She’s a mom,” Meter said told ABC News on Wednesday. “We need to protect the community from Trump’s deportation machinery.”
ICE spokesman Neudauer did not say if Vizguerra's request for an extension was denied due to a change in policy.
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