Surrounded by friends and advocates at a sunny park in Aurora today, immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra celebrated a victory: She was released yesterday from the immigration detention center where she'd been held since July 24. But her fight to remain in the U.S. isn't over. Federal authorities have given Vizguerra a stay of deportation until January, at which time they've told her she must return to her native Mexico.
The mother of four isn't about to give up, though -- not on her case or on the cases of other parents like her.
"The lawyer says that there's nothing more to do," Vizguerra says through an interpreter. "But I believe that there's always something to do, that the fight doesn't end. The fight doesn't end to try to stay with your family."
Vizguerra and her family -- which now includes three citizen-children ages nine, seven and two -- first came to the United States from Mexico looking for a safe place to live. According to a documentary in which Vizguerra tells her story, her husband was held up by gunpoint three times while working as a bus driver in Mexico.
Here, the couple owned a moving and cleaning company. But the income wasn't enough, especially since Vizguerra's husband was diagnosed with cancer and the family had medical bills to pay. So Vizguerra took on more jobs, sometimes working twenty hours a day. It was when she was leaving one job and on her way to apply for another that she was pulled over. The officer's first question to her was, "Are you legal or illegal?"
Vizguerra fought her deportation case, which included a series of delays and ended in an appeal. While she was waiting for the appellate process to play out, her mother became terminally ill and Vizguerra decided to visit her in Mexico. She was caught by border patrol agents as she was crossing back into the United States this past April.
She was held in a detention center in El Paso, Texas until her lawyer convinced officials with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to release her under supervision. Vizguerra says she was so happy that she cried tears of joy on the bus back to Colorado. But when she went to meet with the officer who was supervising her here on July 24, she was arrested without explanation and put back in detention.
Vizguerra's many supporters sprung into action. They organized a group to go to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet's office and ask him to write a letter of support for Vizguerra. They protested in front of the GEO Detention Center in Aurora and they launched a hunger strike. They also staged an overnight vigil at the ICE field office in Centennial "to tell them that business as usual won't happen if their business is deporting and separating families," says community organizer Judith Marquez.
Yesterday, federal immigration authorities released Vizguerra from detention -- something advocates credit to the overwhelming support from the community and the attention her case generated. She says she was told that she'd be placed on supervision until January, at which point she figures she'll be taken into custody again and deported. But she doesn't know for sure what will happen, and she's fearful that she could be arrested again without explanation before then.
"I hope that immigration reform moves forward so perhaps I could benefit from it and remain here," Vizguerra says. "The fight will continue -- perhaps not with my case, but with the many more people that are in my situation. We have to fight for them."
Those people include Alfredo Carrillo, a father of three whose thirteen-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son were at the park today to speak to the media about their father's case. "My dad is an honest man," twelve-year-old Oscar Carrillo told the small crowd of reporters and television cameras. "He's not a criminal. He just comes to work."
Continue for more from the children of Alfredo Carrillo. According to a petition asking ICE to stop his deportation, Alfredo Carrillo came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 to work construction. He got married to his wife, Adriana, in 1998 and the couple went on to have three children: thirteen-year-old Indhira, twelve-year-old Oscar and ten-year-old Osvaldo. After enduring an eye injury while working construction, Alfredo went on to work as an auto mechanic.
In 2008, he was pulled over and arrested for driving without a license. Carrillo wound up in deportation proceedings and before his family could gather the money to pay his bond, he was deported to Mexico.
In 2010, he took a risk and returned to Colorado because his family was struggling without him. Two years later, in November 2012, the family was heading to dinner at a Chinese restaurant when their truck was pulled over, ostensibly for a faulty license plate light. Carrillo was driving and he was arrested once again for not having a license. Though his family fought to keep him here, he was deported on February 5 of this year -- one day before his youngest son Osvaldo's birthday, his two older children point out.
Since then, they say, life has been hard. Their mother works two jobs to support the family but is having a hard time making ends meet. "We only see her for an hour because I'm asleep," Oscar says. "Sometimes, we're struggling to pay the rent."
Carrillo recently made another attempt at crossing the border, but he was caught. He's now in an immigration detention center in New Mexico and is facing charges of re-entering the country illegally. Advocates are trying to draw attention to his case in the hopes that ICE will allow him to stay in the United States with his wife and kids.
"All we just want to do is be family and be all together," Indhira says.
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"I'm thirteen years old. In two years, I'm going to be fifteen years old and we actually make a party for our fifteenth, and I really don't want to miss that day with my dad."
More from our Immigration archive: "Clarisa Mesta allowed to stay in the U.S. after speaking out about her deportation case."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org