The Mexican government warned Friday of a "new reality" for its citizens living in the United States and advised them to "take precautions" following the deportation of an undocumented mother after a routine visit with U.S. immigration authorities.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, of Mesa, Ariz., was taken into custody Wednesday during a routine check-in at the central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For four years, federal immigration authorities had given her a pass to remain in the U.S. rather than deport her back to her native Mexico.
This time, according to her attorney, Ray Ybarra-Maldonado, the Mexican consulate informed him that Garcia de Rayos, whose two children were born in the U.S., was deported to Nogales, Sonora, on Thursday.
The deportation stoked the intense debate over enforcement of immigration laws, drawing protests from Garcia de Rayos' supporters and praise from proponents of stricter measures.
Seven people were arrested Wednesday night during demonstrations outside the ICE offices in Phoenix. Protesters tried to block federal vehicles from leaving the grounds, including one carrying Garcia de Rayos.
The statement Friday from Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said consular officials from Nogales, Ariz., were present when Garcia de Rayos was deported to ensure it was done in a "dignified and safe" manner.
The statement said the case "illustrates a new reality for the Mexican community living in the United States, facing the most severe implementation of immigration control measures."
Mexican consulates "have intensified their work of protecting fellow nationals, foreseeing more severe immigration measures to be implemented by the authorities of this country, and possible violations to constitutional precepts during such operations and problems with due process," the statement added.
"The entire Mexican community is invited to take precautions and stay in touch with your nearest consulate, to get the help needed to cope with a situation of this kind," the statement added.
Garcia de Rayo's attorney said his client came to the U.S. in 1996 when she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 after then-Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio seized hundreds of employment records in a work-site sweep at the miniature golf course and water park where Garcia de Rayo worked. She later pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminal impersonation for using a fake Social Security card.
In 2013, an immigration judge found Garcia de Rayos had no legal stance to remain in the U.S. and issued a voluntary departure instructing her to leave the country, Ybarra-Maldonado said. After Garcia de Rayo appealed the voluntary departure, ICE gave her an order of supervision instructing her to check in yearly, and then every six months, he said.
She appeared for her check-in Wednesday but instead of being told to come back in six months, ICE officers took her into custody, he said.
Immigration advocates say they are hearing similar stories around the country, but it remains unclear if the people being deported would have been allowed to stay in the country under President Obama.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Friday that it completed a week-long “enforcement surge” targeting undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles. ICE arrested 160 undocumented immigrants, but said 150 of them had “criminal histories.”
ICE’s definition of criminality changed when Trump signed an immigration enforcement executive order Jan. 25, which vastly expanded the pool of people deemed priorities for deportation. ICE said that “many” of the people arrested in Los Angeles this week had prior felony convictions for violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and assault.
Others arrested included people who had a final deportation order issued against them but had evaded law enforcement. Others were charged with re-entering the country after being deported.
“While this week’s operation was an enforcement surge, the focus was no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis,” the ICE statement read.
Contributing: Daniel González, The Arizona Republic; Alan Gomez, USA TODAY