Community Mobilizes to Stop Deportation of Mother of Three
In June 2011 the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, issued a “prosecutorial discretion memorandum” regarding the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Under the new guidelines, officials, agents, and supervisors of ICE, Home Land Security Investigation, and Enforcement and Removal Operation, have the power to release immigrants from detention and stop their deportation. “Low-priority removal cases” that “warrant particular care” include immigrants without criminal records and those who have long-standing ties to the United States, such as minors, parents (regardless of gender or sexual identity), pregnant or nursing mothers, members of the armed services, and disabled individuals.
Lourdes Salazar Bautista, a Mexican mother with no criminal record, has resided in Michigan for fourteen years, raising her three U.S.-born children, ages seven, nine, and thirteen. As a child, Lourdes’ father, a migrant worker, told her hopeful stories of the opportunities available north of the border. To “fulfill a dream my father instilled in me” Lourdes states, she immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 to join her husband, Luis Quintana. In the last decade, Lourdes started her own cleaning business, purchased her own home, and paid property taxes. She has also raised a family, and has earned the respect of the Ann Arbor community through her regular participation in her children’s public school activities, and her contributions to Saint Mary’s Student Parish. Lourdes fulfills all the requirements for prosecutorial discretion. And yet two days after Christmas, on December 27th, Lourdes is to be deported to Mexico.
In June 2010, ICE agents arrested Lourdes in the driveway of her home, while her children observed with shock and fear. For twenty-three days, ICE resorted to threats to pressure Lourdes into signing her own deportation order. Courageously, she refused. Lourdes’ citizen brother had requested a visa for her in 2002, which was accepted by Immigration and Naturalization Service. Given her pending visa, Lourdes’ brother urged that she resist the attempts of ICE officers to self-incriminate her. Sadly enough, upon her release, Lourdes’s husband was soon deported, abruptly making Lourdes a struggling single head of household. As she notes, “[ICE] told me I could stay but they deported my husband. I struggled to make ends meet, as they granted me a work permit, but now they want to deport me.”
Outraged by the injustices that Lourdes has suffered, a coalition of civil rights and religious groups has initiated a campaign to stop her deportation. On November 11th, a candlelight vigil was organized at St. Mary’s Church, where Lourdes testified to a packed church audience about the traumatic treatment she suffered while detained and her children’s anguish as they contemplate a future without their mother and father, or potentially residing in the unfamiliar country of Mexico. According to a national investigation conducted by the Applied Research Center, at least 5,100 children are currently in foster care as a result of their parents’ deportation, and the number could reach 15,000 in the next five years. In line with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ stated policy on Immigration, the Catholic Bishop of Lansing, Early Boyea, wrote to John Morton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, asking “that you immediately take action to stop the deportation of Lourdes, so she can stay in the United States with her children and the community where she lives and makes her home.”
As the deportation date draws near, organizers have planned events for the rest of November and early December. On November 30th and December 1st, an urgent call-a-thon to ICE Director John Morton will be hosted at three Ann Arbor locations. Approximately 20,000 callers will be mobilized to demand that prosecutorial discretion be exercised to stop Lourdes’ deportation. The following week, on Tuesday December 5th, a rally at Ann Arbor City Hall will ask for unified City Council support for Lourdes. In 2003 the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution declaring that it “opposes measures that single out individuals for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based solely on their country of origin and/or religion.” In publicly denouncing the deportation of Lourdes, as she was in fact arrested by ICE in Ann Arbor, the City Council can enforce its own resolution.
Lourdes’ case embodies the systemic attack on immigrants, further heightened by Obama’s “Secure Communities” program, which requires that police officers report the fingerprints of detained persons to Homeland Security. Playing the role of slave-catchers in search of “fugitives,” ICE agents prey on immigrants outside of schools, grocery stores, and apartment buildings. In the last 2011 fiscal year, ICE fulfilled its annual quota by deporting nearly 400,000 people, the highest total on record. Internal data from ICE demonstrates that between October 2008 and February 2011, sixty-percent of deportations were of individuals with no criminal background. 
Those who scold immigrants with “get in line” arguments are conveniently ignorant of the actual legalization process. Immigrants pay tens of thousands of dollars in application fees and lawyer costs, and can wait over decade to receive a green card, let alone citizenship. However, for the vast majority of immigrants, “the line” simply does not exist. Given the current reality, immigrants cannot help but conclude that the system is intentionally designed to terrorize their communities and present obstacles to impede timely legalization. In the words of María Eugenia, a Colombian domestic worker who has resided in the U.S. for seventeen years, “the government doesn't give us the possibility to legalize quickly, that way they can exploit us  longer.”
U.S. foreign policy and corporate interests are a driving force of immigration, another reality glaringly absent from the mainstream immigration debate. In fact, Lourdes migrated to the U.S. from Mexico just three years after the Clinton administration enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada. By accelerating a vicious “race to the bottom” wherein countries are forced to compete by driving down wages and environmental standards, NAFTA has increased poverty and unemployment in all three countries. In Mexico’s case, the treaty has flooded Mexico’s domestic market with cheap grains from the United States, thus devastating Mexican small farmers. A predictable, if not inevitable consequence of such policies has been increased immigration to the United States. Bush, Obama, and the U.S. Congress have followed in Clinton’s footsteps, implementing “free-trade” agreements with Central America, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Panama, and Colombia. As politicians increase the likelihood of future immigration, they pour tens of billions of dollars into militarizing the U.S.- Mexico border, and promote racist  laws to criminalize immigrants.
Despite the obstacles, immigrants hold a tremendous amount of social power; state and national economies cannot function without their exploited labor. We must demand that prosecutorial discretion be duly exercised now to stop the deportation of Lourdes Salazar Bautista. We must build a strong immigrant movement to fight for the civil and human right of all immigrants to live united with their families and without fear.
 John Morton, “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens,” June 17, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/secure-communities/pdf/prosecutorial-discretion-memo.pdf
Prosecutorial discretion includes “granting deferred action, granting parole, or staying a final order of removal; deciding whom to detain or to release on bond, supervision, personal recognizance; executing a removal order; responding to or joining in a motion to reopen removal proceedings and to consider joining in a motion to grant relief or a benefit.”
 The coalition is composed of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Social Work Allies for Immigrant Rights, Dreamactivist.org, Alliance for Immigrant Rights, Migrant Immigrant Rights Advocacy, Immigrant Rights on Campus, St Francis of Assissi Parish, Michigan Immigration and Labor Law Association, and St. Mary Student Parish.
 Cheryl Chodon, “A prayer vigil and rally for an Ann Arbor mom of three who's been ordered deported to Mexico,” 7 ABC Action News, November 11, 2011, accessed November 22 2011, www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/region/washtenaw_county/a-prayer-vigil-and-rally-for-an-ann-arbor-mom-of-three-who's-been-ordered-deported-to-mexico.
 Seth Freed Wessler, “US Deports 46K Parents in Just Six Months,” Color Lines: News for Action, November 3, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011, http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/11/shocking_data_on_parents_deported_with_citizen_children.html
 “From the Daily: Sanctuary for All,” The Michigan Daily News, September 7, 2008, accessed November 22, 2011,
 Amy Goodman and Maria Hinojosa, "Lost in Detention": As Obama Admin Deports Record 400,000, Film Explores What Immigrants Face Behind Bars,” Democracy Now! October 20, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011, http://www.democracynow.org/2011/10/20/lost_in_detention_as_obama_admin
 Aswini Anburajan, “Deporting the Lowest-Level Offenders,” The American Prospect, April 18, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011, http://prospect.org/article/deporting-lowest-level-offenders
 A citizen can sponsor relatives for citizenship; the average wait period to obtain both a green card and citizenship for a spouse, parent, or minor child, is 6 to 7 years, while adult children and siblings wait an average of 12 to 28 years. Employee based petitions for a green card and citizenship, average 11 to 16 years, while petitions sponsored by permanent residents on behalf of spouses or minor children, average 11 to 13 years; adult children wait on average of 14 to 20 years.
Mike Flynn and Shikha Dalmia, “What Part of Legal Immigration Don’t You Understand?,” Reason Foundation in collaboration with the National Foundation for American Policy, October 2008, accessed November 22, 2011,
Also see, Stuart Anderson,“Family Immigration: The Long Wait to Immigrate,” National Foundation for American Policy, May 2010, accessed November 22, 2011,
 Robert E. Scott, Carlos Salas, and Bruce Campbell, “Revisiting NAFTA: Still not working for North America’s workers,” Economic Policy Institute, September 28, 2008, accessed November 22, 2011, http://www.epi.org/page/-/old/briefingpapers/173/bp173.pdf