[2/9/17] For four years, federal immigration authorities have given Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos a pass to remain in the U.S. rather than deport her back to Mexico.
That changed Wednesday, when Garcia de Rayos went to check in as usual at the central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead of being released, she was taken into custody, while her husband, two children — both U.S.-born citizens — and a group of supporters watched in tears.
And by Wednesday night, her case had become the latest epicenter of the national debate over immigration enforcement. Before midnight, after hours of protests outside the ICE office on North Central Avenue, federal vehicles left the facility, possibly with Garcia de Rayos inside.
Her family and supporters fear Garcia de Rayos, 36, may be deported quickly to Mexico. That, they say, would make her among the first casualties under a shift in policy by ICE under President Donald Trump.
Earlier, protesters had gathered at the ICE office in an attempt to block federal vehicles from leaving the grounds. Inside the gates were buses and vans used to transport people in ICE custody to detention centers, or to the border for deportation.
After 9 p.m., police officers amassed on the south side of the facility as protesters continued to block access, chanting “Justice!” and “Power to the people, no one is illegal!
The effort was organized by Puente Arizona, the group known for blocking roads surrounding a Donald Trump campaign rally in Fountain Hills last year.
The crowd Wednesday peaked at an estimated 200 people, with the number of protesters dwindling after police arrived.
The scene remained peaceful past 10 p.m., as most in the crowd complied with officers’ requests to stay off the street. Phoenix police, wearing helmets, stood by.