Jeanette Vizguerra, a small business owner, community leader and mother of three citizen children, will have to wait until 8:30 a.m. on July 13 to find out if she will be allowed to stay in this country.
Vizguerra's final deportation hearing was scheduled to take place at 8:30 this morning, but it was delayed. Why?
Because of an administrative technicality, according to Liz Hamel, an organizer at Rights for All People (RAP), an organization dedicated to ensuring equality and justice for immigrants.
"This is an example of how long and drawn-out this process is and how wearing it is mentally," Hamel says. "It speaks to immigrants in general who are in it for the long haul and work here and endure. This is a cause we're willing to keep fighting for."
RAP had organized a protest for 7:30 a.m. this morning with help from Colorado Progressive Coalition, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Coloradans for Immigrant Rights and Interfaith Worker Justice. About one-hundred people showed up to pledge their support and said they would be back in July, Hamel notes.
"We were so happy with the turnout," she says. "There were many allies from other organizations who aren't immigrants who believe in fighting the struggle. We hope we were a visible presence and that we were able to talk to people we wouldn't have spoken to. It was a strong and peaceful protest. We were really pleased with how that went."
Hamel says RAP will speak with Vizguerra, her family and lawyers about staging another protest for the July hearing -- but either way, the organization will have a presence there.
RAP and the rest of Vizguerra's supporters believe it would be cruel to separate her from her family. Vizguerra's husband is suffering from cancer and is unable to work to pay medical bills, and the couple's children, who were born here, are ages seven, five and three months. In addition, Vizguerra has been involved in many community organizations, from the SEIU local 105 labor union, where she fought for equal wages and against sexual harassment, to the Aurora Neighborhood Watch Program and her children's schools.
Vizguerra attempted to apply for citizen status when a family member petitioned for her, but that effort fell through, Hamel maintains.
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"It's a huge misconception that you can just go down to the office and fill out a few papers to apply for citizen status," she argues. "It's a long process, and if you don't have a lot of money or a direct family member, it is really difficult and could take up to twenty years."
RAP will also mobilize at noon next Wednesday at for the deportation hearing of Gerardo Noriega, a twenty-year-old graduate of Smoky Hill High School. He was pulled over for a broken license plate light and faces deportation to Mexico, a country about which he knows virtually nothing firsthand. He moved to Colorado when he was a young child.
"This isn't about one court hearing," Hamel says. "It's about the fight for human rights in general."
More from our Immigration archive: "Gay immigration: What is it like to be gay in El Salvador? Report to the U.N. details the horrors."