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Undocumented immigrants are going public to stop their deportations

Undocumented immigrants are going public to stop their deportations
Pete Ryan

Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez stands before the revolving door of the downtown Denver skyscraper that houses the federal immigration court. It's a chilly morning in early April, and the 43-year-old mother of three has come here for a hearing in her deportation case.

But she's far from alone.

About fifty supporters line the sidewalk on either side of her, holding signs that have been hand-lettered with phrases such as "Migration Is Beautiful" and "Love Knows No Borders." The vibrant colors of their signs are the visual equivalent of shouting, letting rush-hour commuters know that inside that stone building, families — familias — are separated every day.

Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez (left) has taken her case public with the help of her daughter Tania.
Anthony Camera
Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez (left) has taken her case public with the help of her daughter Tania.
Before he entered Smoky Hill High School, Gerardo Noriega didn’t realize he was undocumented.
Anthony Camera
Before he entered Smoky Hill High School, Gerardo Noriega didn’t realize he was undocumented.

"Gracias a todos," Valenzuela Gonzalez says into a microphone, pausing while her words are translated. "I want to be here. This is where I raised my family, and this is where I want to stay."

As a court security guard keeps an eye on the demonstration, she passes the microphone to a pastor in a crisp white collar. She joins hands with her daughters and son, closes her eyes and bows her head. The pastor prays: "Imelda, as you and your beautiful family go upstairs today, know that we are all breathing with you. We are praying that you and your family feel wrapped in the love and support that we offer."

Valenzuela Gonzalez, who owns a hair salon in Westminster, is one of a growing number of undocumented immigrants who are speaking out about their cases in the hopes of stopping their deportations — a practice that is in sharp contrast to the way many of them have spent their lives, living in fear and trying to attract as little attention as possible.

The trend began a few years ago with undocumented teenagers and twenty-somethings who were facing deportation, often because they'd been pulled over for minor traffic infractions and then been reported to federal immigration authorities. Many had been living in the United States since they were small children and considered themselves Americans.

As Congress once again began debating the DREAM Act in 2009 — which would have provided legal status to immigrants who came here as children and went on to college or the military — these young people started drawing attention to the injustice of their pending deportations with public rallies, media exposure and petitions circulated on Facebook and Twitter.

The DREAM Act failed, but the outspoken activism it inspired has since spread to the parents of these younger immigrants. After experiencing some success, immigrant-rights groups nationwide and here in Colorado are now working to figure out the most effective strategy to halt deportations and teach immigrants how to carry it out.

Valenzuela Gonzalez has been a willing student. She ended up in deportation proceedings after being scammed by a notario (notaries who sometimes provide legal services) who'd promised to help her get a work permit. But Valenzuela Gonzalez didn't qualify for the permit and probably never would have. Instead, the paperwork simply alerted authorities that she was in the country illegally.

Now, as the threat of being sent to Mexico and separated from her children looms, Valenzuela Gonzalez explains that she's not afraid to tell the world her story.

"What else could happen?" she asks.

**********

Like many undocumented immigrants, Valenzuela Gonzalez and her husband didn't plan to stay in the United States for long. A year, they thought, would be enough time to make some money and return home to Chihuahua, Mexico, where the prospect of earning a decent living is slim. Valenzuela Gonzalez worked as a hairdresser there, but not many people had money to spend at the beauty salon. On a good day, she saw three clients. On an average day, she saw none. So the couple, their nine-year-old daughter, Tania, and their one-year-old son, Manuel, crossed the border, arriving in Colorado on July 4, 1999.

Tania, now 23, remembers that as they walked to a Mexican bakery in northwest Denver on their very first day here, she found five dollars on the sidewalk.

"It hasn't been that easy ever since," she says.

Her mother worked several jobs at hair salons serving Spanish-speaking clients after getting a cosmetology license from the state of California, which accepted the training she'd gotten in Mexico; she then transferred that license in Colorado. "It felt like a miracle," she says. "I was very happy.... I didn't have a Social Security number, but I had a valid document."

Valenzuela Gonzalez eventually saved enough money to buy Estilistas Renovación, one of the salons she'd worked at on Federal Boulevard, from the previous owner in 2005.

The shop is on the second story of a dingy white-brick plaza with a Spanish-style red-tile roof, above a convenience store that sells $5 packs of cigarettes. The walls are painted a dusty rose color and decorated with several diamond-shaped mirrors. The rest of the decorations are no-frills: a line of chairs for waiting, a small TV, a maroon loveseat where Valenzuela Gonzalez sits between customers, and three barber chairs. Scuff marks sully the wall in front of the third chair, in which Manuel, now fifteen, likes to spin while watching YouTube videos on his smartphone. Valenzuela Gonzalez is there eleven hours a day, cutting hair at $12 a head.

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62 comments
CJW81
CJW81

Just a few responses:

The lady had enough money and time to save and purchase a beauty shop but didn't think to save up money and become a citizen?

The kid was driving without a license. He was here illegally. He's knowingly breaking the law left and right. What other laws is he breaking? Who foots the bill when he hops a curb and kills a family of four sitting in a Baskin Robbins?

Some people who've publicly campaigned to stop their deportations have been ordered to leave the country anyway. Jose Luis Vazquez Campos, a father of two who ended up in deportation proceedings after a series of traffic stops

A SERIES of traffic stops? 


I'm all for people becoming citizens in our Country. They need to do it the right way, not cry about finally getting caught.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator topcommentereditor

we'd like to publish some of these comments in the Letters to the editor section of our print edition, ideally with your full name. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

Steve Holmberg
Steve Holmberg

Guaranteed very, very few, if any, Americans are working illegally in Mexico! Working in Mexico legally for years, I have to pass through police checkpoints everyday just getting around town. An illegal immigrant would not get far in Mexico, and when caught they will put you in jail for 2 years, no trial or free flight home!

Willow Bee
Willow Bee

Oh, please. Americans work illegally in other countries all the time. I've known people who worked illegally in Europe, and people who used fake college diplomas to get work in Asia. None of them were doing it because there was no work for them in the US, or to help out their families. They were working illegally just because they wanted to live and work in those countries.

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

Since they are illegal immigrants they should be arrested and deported on sight. If I were selling guns out of my trunk illegally I would be arrested immediately. Obama and his minions have done enough damage to this country. We have laws for a reason.

Russell Lott
Russell Lott

Are there more details to her story than just "Valenzuela Gonzalez came to the United States from Mexico in 1999." It would be interesting to know more of her background. Did she try applying through the legal process? Was she trying to work with the system?

Atom Thomas Gallegos
Atom Thomas Gallegos

Any American having to move to another country would have to go through the same legal process to become a citizen, they should too! Bullshit! Don't play by the rules, then get the fuck out

Jay Jurgens
Jay Jurgens

plain to me why it such a big deal to becom legal? I would seriously like know. Anybody?

Lawrence Brown
Lawrence Brown

You mean illegal aliens. You mean criminals that broke the law. Don't play P.C. word games.

tigerusa63
tigerusa63

Illegal aliens have no right to live, work, or own anything in the USA, and must lose  all they own, including their lives if the law allows it. Enforcing the laws is the only right thing to do.

tigerusa63
tigerusa63

Enforce the laws and deport or execute the Illegal aliens as the laws allow. No amnesty, no pity, no allowing them to live, work or own anything here..

thefemaleofthespecies
thefemaleofthespecies

one issue i have with undocumented immigrants are these people who have been here for 20-30 years, have 5+ children, and for whatever reason refuse to learn our language. what is up with that?  also, if you can come up with $1000, $5000, $7500 dollars for bail bonds or to scammers promising documents, how are you unable to afford a green card?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I read recently where there were about 500,000 detentions along the Mexican border for those entering the country illegally.


The current population of Mexico is about 112,000,000 with a birthrate of about 1.2%.


The equivalent of about half of the newborns in Mexico are caught trying to enter the US illegally.


Estimates of Mexican citizens  living in the US range from 10 to 20 million.  This is roughly 10% to 20% of the population of Mexico.


My questions are:


1) Why cannot the economy of Mexico grow  to accommodate their own population?

2) If illegal immigration from Mexico is stopped, how long will it be before there is a massive revolution in Mexico to overthrow the current economic and political system?

3) Why is immigration reform confounded with the granting of citizenship to aliens?

blindlemmingchiffon
blindlemmingchiffon

Some brief points:

1. Next Thanksgiving, ask everyone at the table why the Pilgrims didn't need green cards.

2. We live in a state where pot is legal and people are not. How crazy is that?

3. Our immigration system and our southern border is similar in many ways to the Berlin wall.

4. If all our working undocumented immigrants paid income taxes and social security taxes, we'd definitely have something going on.

5. One of the problems is the incredibly high cost of immigrating legally. One green card, with legal fees, can cost $5-10,000.00. We'd have less illegal immigration if it was cheaper, easier and safer to get an employment card or a green card than it is to pay a coyote.

6. Of the 11-12,000,000 estimated undocumented people in the USA, about 38% are not from Mexico.

7. Our immigration problems are complex, and the simple band-aid solutions put forth by our politicians are making things worse, not better.

druid06211
druid06211

Let's remember that they are "criminally undocumented aliens."  If they speak out in public, we can find them and send them home.  We should remember this for next year's Cinco de Mayo.  That makes for a target rich environment.

Tmarie
Tmarie

Its to late and the politicians will stop at nothing in selling us all out and once they are done they can leave the country with their off shore accounts go to Belize or where ever they have invested for their retirements leaving us, our kids, grandkids the after math

TazTolstoy
TazTolstoy

This country is doomed. The third-worlding is well on its way and we are more concerned about hurting people's feelings, about being "fair" to those who broke the law and got caught. 

It is an "injustice" to enforce laws and recognize the sovereignty of a nation. Laughable. It has been deemed "racist" by the progressive PC thought police to stand up for the preservation of an existing culture and way of life. They grant every other nation on Earth those rights but not the USA. We have a way of life that the self-loathing lefties seemed intent on destroying in the name of emotional ideology and unprincipled exceptions.  

I say open the gates. Let everyone in. Love and fairness and "equality" and multiculturalism and "diversity" will carry us into the future in peace and harmony and prosperity. Just no bitching about declining wages, rising unemployment, declining productivity, cratering healthcare, education, and social structures. No whining about the declining standard of living, long lines, higher taxes, rising energy costs, crumbling infrastructure, and loss of personal liberty to quell the fear mongering.  

And when the fiddler comes to get paid for going on three generations of borrowing and fiat currency manipulation to hold the real recession (depression) that looms at bay, that massive tab for makework jobs and entitlement programs, and artificial standard of living that you have enjoyed while stuffing your faces with processed food and flipping and filling your mcmansions with bric-a-brac from china will be laid at the feet of your children. 

Fear not, you can tell them that "love knows no border" and that equality and fairness at all costs were worth it. And to think otherwise would just be their pesky white privilege rearing its ugly head. You know, all that important stuff you learned earning your women's/latino/black/gender studies BA that you are still paying off as a part-time HR/marketing/social-media "manager". 

Enjoy the decline! 

redsoxfan
redsoxfan

They are not undocumented they are ILLEGAL. They should not have access to ANY social services. Her deportation hearing should have consisted of, we know you are illegal so away you go. No hearings, nothing. DEPORTATION ONLY!

khoff
khoff

Illegals are just bringing more problems to this country that we don't need. More crime, uneducated people, girls that get pregnant prior to finishing high school. Jails are crowded, hospitals are crowded, public assistance and food stamps offices are crowded. Free schooling, free lunches... I could go on and on about the problems these illegal's are causing our country. Secure the border and stop the amnesty program and the free rides for these law breakers.

CloudGang
CloudGang

"So the couple, their nine-year-old daughter, Tania, and their one-year-old son, Manuel, crossed the border, arriving in Colorado on July 4, 1999."

So what? Although I have compassion I have none for people who break the fucked up laws......like my fellow Americans who are subject to the USA'S unsurpassed incarceration rates.......IF YOU CANT DO THE TIME DON'T DO THE CRIME.

susan34
susan34

Said it once, said it a million times: get the illegals OUT. PERIOD.    The US citizens are paying billions for them in so many ways and I, for one, am sick to death of it.  Oh sure, "they just want to earn a living".  I mainly see "I want to suck off the teat of the handout fairy and ignore the laws".

Half Aspen
Half Aspen

Denise, It sounds to me that you're the racist in the pool. You know who I want running our country? Any son-of-bitch capable of doing so whether he be black, white, Hispanic, or fucking green with big yellow dots. Grow the fuck up.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

How quickly one forgets how this country was 'obtained', (murder,rape, pillaged), & built,(slavery), by FUCKING EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS !!!

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

You are probably undereducated. Why don't you read the laws of our nation. That is all your kind (leftist liberal who feels entitled without earning anything) does. Insult since you have no support for your stance.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

How about you learn to keep up, dickhead? Criminal penalties for illegal immigration (which were rarely enforced, mind you) in Mexico have since been eliminated.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Here in the U.S., illegal entry (not presence) is a criminal offense that can result in 6 months in federal prison (1st offense) and up to 2 years for each subsequent offense. Your point?

Ryan Gregory
Ryan Gregory

I don't think anybody has made a racist comment?

thefemaleofthespecies
thefemaleofthespecies

@tigerusa63 really? 'including their lives if the law allows it' ? well, the law DOESNT allow it, and any valid agrument you might have had has been flushed down the toilet, because now you just sound like a bigoted crazy person. 

tsokr
tsokr

@blindlemmingchiffon Didn't they shoot people trying to get out of Berlin? How come Mexico doesn't. Because their social burden is not put on the US taxpayer and you have no problem with that.

kenboyd2
kenboyd2

@blindlemmingchiffon 

My answers and questions.

1.They settled in unclaimed territories.

2. Pot my be legal in your state but not with the federal gov. and your insurance co.

3.The border is just that, separating 2 different countries, can you drive in mexico and live off of their government?

4. When was the last time income and social security taxes went down, when was the first time? Will the illegals be immediately eligible for social security that is already overburdened with freeloaders.

5. Past immigrants have paid without the pleasure of living for years here illegally. Why can they not.

6. I think that figure is low, I think there are more illegal muslims terrorist here than Mexicans.

7. The only problem is that the laws are not and cannot be upheld because of liberal people and politicians turning their heads.

If you want to GIVE them what you have worked for that is fine. You deciding I can give them MY property is what I do not like.

This is the democrats way of continuing to buy votes. Hope it works out where it will lessen the burden on our already burdened unemployment and social security.

I will also be looking forward to walking through walls and using my x-ray vision.  

tigerized
tigerized

@blindlemmingchiffon 

We are either a nation of laws, or we ain’t.

WE don’t get to pick and choose.

Allowing criminals to break our laws without penalty is treasonous. Plain and simple.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CloudGang  

There's more to it when we are still incarcerating for drugs !!!

tigerusa63
tigerusa63

@Juan_Leg  Name the Immigrants Juan. The people that came from Europe were not Immigrants, but explorers, etc. An Immigrant moves from one Nation, legally to another, and no nation existed here when they came, understand? that education lesson was free, but the rest will cost you. Now deport or EXECUTE all of the Illegal aliens for their crimes as them laws allow. No amnesty.

tigerized
tigerized

@Juan_Leg  

So Juan. Why the hell would YOU want to be in a country with a history of murder, rape, pillage, and slavery?

redsoxfan
redsoxfan

@Juan_Leg THAT WAS BEFORE THERE WERE IMMIGRATION LAWS. NOW THE LAW SAYS YOU CAN'T COME HERE ILLEGALLY.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Stephan Reuchlein  

LOL !!!

'Your nation' !!!!!

WAKE THE FUCK UP !!!!!

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Stephan Reuchlein  

Support ?

I have a whole f'n nation the U.S. CONSISTENTLY SHITS UPON !!!!!

(MEXICO)

The WORLD FOR THAT MATTER ...... ! 

blindlemmingchiffon
blindlemmingchiffon

@tigerized @blindlemmingchiffon The pro-drug argument (advanced by Tom Tancredo, of all people) says we are wasting resources trying to enforce drug laws that have no hope of being enforced, fighting a losing battle, and the solution is to legalize them, regulate them and tax them. How is it different for illegal drugs than it is for illegal people?

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@tigerized @Juan_Leg  

You all do KNOW,

I'm a,

('butt-white'),

white-boy, 

born in DENVER !

Right ?

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@tigerized

As soon as Clyde passes, I am GONE !!!

Including burning my passport !!!

tsokr
tsokr

@blindlemmingchiffon @tsokr  Are you putting words in my mouth? You brought up the Berlin Wall. Any of these illegals could unite back in whatever country they came from. You didn't answer my question about the tax payers of this country taking care of citizens of another.

blindlemmingchiffon
blindlemmingchiffon

@tigerized @blindlemmingchiffon I would rather have the honest working people from Mexico, many of whom I have met and many of whom do live in my neighborhood than strung out junkies who will think nothing of breaking into my house and killing me to get money for drugs.

tigerized
tigerized

@blindlemmingchiffon @tigerized Apples and oranges. Drugs are not sentient beings, who have the ability to make choices and govern their own behavior. Add drugs to the list of other black market items, where their illegality actually increases the demand for them. People, on the other hand, are either law-abiding or not. Which group do YOU want living in your neighborhood?

 
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