Despite vigils, social media campaigns, and strong statements of support from church members, prominent politicians and faith leaders, the simple truth is this: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will show no mercy ― even to a mother of four American children with no criminal record.
About two weeks ago, the 41-year-old was reportedly seized by ICE officials outside her home in Cincinnati days after a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE. Her four children were apparently inside the house and never got a chance to say goodbye.
After an appeals court in Cincinnati denied Trujillo Diaz’s request to stay in the U.S., she was removed to a detention center in Louisiana where she was held for about one week, before being placed on a plane bound for Mexico on Wednesday.
Trujillo Diaz’s case was notable for the wide spectrum of support she received, both in Ohio and across the country. Both of the state’s senators, as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), had advocated on her behalf.
She also received strong support from religious organizations. Trujillo Diaz is a Catholic who was an active member of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Hamilton, Ohio. The state’s Catholic community had rallied around the mom, and Cincinnati’s Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr wrote to ICE in February asking for leniency.
After hearing about her deportation, Tony Stieritz, the archdiocese’s director of Catholic Social Action, told The Huffington Post that the community’s reaction is one of “dismay, sorrow and anger.”
“So much was put into this,” Stieritz told The Huffington Post. “So much optimism, seeing our senators in Ohio weigh in, our governor, thousands of people from around the country surrounding this one family with their advocacy and concern; we really had hopes that this would move the administration.”
“I think we’re just dismayed that despite all of this, it’s just run into a brick wall,” Stieritz said.
Stieritz said that since the mom was the primary breadwinner for her family, parishioners are trying to step in and offer their financial support. A prayer service for Trujillo Diaz and her family will be held at St. Julie Billiart Parish this Sunday.
Support from the broader faith community has also poured in, from organizations like the Nuns on the Bus Ohio, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) and the Amos Project.
More than 700 clergy members from around the United States had signed a letter earlier this week asking Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to suspend the deportation.
Sara Benitez, Latino program director for Faith in Public Life, which organized the letter campaign, told HuffPost she was disappointed and heartbroken after hearing about the deportation.
“It is critical for people of faith to speak out about these deportations because we are called to speak up when our laws have become unjust and break a higher law of morality,” Benitez wrote in an email. “Right now, the way our government is tearing parents away from their American children, is cruel and immoral.”
Trujillo Diaz’s lawyers at Ohio’s Advocates for Basic Legal Equality say she entered the United States in 2002 illegally because drug cartels in Mexico had been targeting her family. She reportedly filed twice for asylum and was denied both times. She made a third request after her father was allegedly kidnapped by a cartel. That request is still pending.
In an op-ed for The Hill, lawyers Emily Brown and Kathleen Kersh said Trujillo Diaz was “low-hanging fruit” for ICE because she followed the rules ― she attended her check-in meetings and reported her address, phone number, place of employment and work schedule.
“Maribel’s deportation shows that the Trump Administration is not focused on deporting criminals, but rather on separating peaceful mothers from their American children. It is horrific that American children will be the ones to pay the price for these heartless policies,” Kersh said in a statement.
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls told WVXU that the organization did show discretion by allowing Trujillo Diaz to remain free from custody while her immigration case was pending.
Walls said the mom’s “immigration case underwent review at multiple levels of our nation’s legal system and the courts uniformly held that she had no legal basis to remain in the United States.”
After his election, President Donald Trump said he would be focusing on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records. But according to statistics obtained by The Washington Post, ICE’s immigration arrests of those with no criminal records doubled during Trump’s first few months in the White House.
In response to questions about the Trump administration’s policies toward people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ― which allows certain individuals who came to the country as children to temporarily remain in the U.S. ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday that “everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported.”
“People come here and they stay here a few years and somehow they think they are not subject to being deported — well, they are,” Sessions said on Fox News.
For Stieritz, the Catholic Social Action advocate from Ohio, this concern about following the rule of law must be “tempered with mercy.”
“A lot of people have a concern about the rule of law, and [they say], ‘Doesn’t our faith talk about law and justice, and isn’t it the just thing to do to deport this woman because of how she came here?’” Stieritz said. “And our response to that is, we absolutely believe in the rule of law and justice, but justice also has to be tempered with mercy, especially for those who pose not threat to safety, and when the application of justice harms a family and doesn’t serve the wellbeing of a community.”
“And in Maribel’s situation,” he said, “that’s what we’re dealing with.”