By Catholic News Service
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a Catholic immigration advocacy group based near Washington called on the Trump administration to suspend the deportation of an Ohio woman they said is a devoted wife and mother and an “outstanding member of her church and community.”
According to news reports, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents April 5 picked up Maribel Trujillo Diaz at her brother’s house and she was to be deported April 11.
The archdiocese in an April 6 statement said Trujillo fled Mexico in 2002 and has been living in the United States since then without legal authorization. It said she currently has a pending asylum case “based on the situation that her family has been targeted by Mexican cartels because they have refused to work for them.”
“Maribel has made a life in Ohio based on positive contributions to her church and her community,” the statement said. “She is a lay leader at her parish, whose members are surrounding her with prayers that she be permitted to remain with them and her family.”
She is an active member of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Hamilton. Her four children, ages 3, 10, 12 and 14, are all U.S. citizens. Her 3-year-old daughter is a special needs child and suffers from recurring seizures.
An ICE statement said Trujillo’s immigration case “has undergone review at multiple levels of our nation’s legal system and the courts have uniformly held that she has no legal basis to remain in the United States.”
It said that in 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed her legal appeals and she became subject to a final order of deportation. “In an exercise of discretion, the agency has allowed Ms. Trujillo to remain free from custody with periodic reporting, while her immigration case was pending.”
Trujillo has been reporting regularly since then to ICE as per the agency’s instructions. At her check-in appointment April 3, she was told that she could remain at home as her asylum case was further reviewed. She was apprehended two days later as she arrived at her brother’s house and was heading to work. On April 7, she was transported to the Morrow County Correctional Facility in Columbus.
“We urge that prosecutorial discretion for Maribel be extended,” the Cincinnati Archdiocese said in its statement. “We fully respect the Department of Homeland Security’s duty to enforce our immigration laws, and we recognize that this is not an easy task.
“At the same time, it is clear that the common good cannot be served at this stage by separating this wife and mother from her family. Our community gains nothing by being left with a single-parent household when such a responsible and well-respected family can be kept together,” it said.
The statement noted the Trump administration “has repeatedly announced that its approach toward immigration enforcement would focus on public safety and removing criminal elements from our communities,” and that Trujillo is not a criminal.
“We urge that our elected and administrative officials exercise mercy for Maribel,” it said.
“I don’t understand the reason to separate my family. I have no criminal record, I’m here working to support my family, so that my kids can study and have a better life for themselves,” Trujillo was quoted as telling reporters before she was detained. “Why does President (Donald) Trump want to divide my family and make me leave my kids behind — what are they going to do without their mama?”
“We are appalled at the way Maribel and her family are being treated,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland. “This is a family in a fragile situation. She is the main breadwinner and the principal caregiver to her 3-year-old daughter with health problems. She is the opposite of a flight risk or a danger to the public. Maribel contributes to the strength and stability of her family, her parish and her hometown.”
An April 6 news release from CLINIC said that when the agency became involved in Trujillo’s case at the request of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, immigration authorities said she was not a priority for deportation and issued her a work permit.
“In 2017 things changed,” Atkinson said in a statement. “At Maribel’s first check-in this year with ICE, she was noticeably treated differently and sent home with a shackle on her ankle to monitor her movements.”
CLINIC and Trujillo’s pro bono attorney, Kathleen Kersh of the Dayton, Ohio-based Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, have filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen Trujillo’s petition for asylum, noting that one of her brothers, who fled Mexico at about the same time, was granted asylum on the basis of having received the same threats from the cartels.
“The sheer lack of compassion and sense of human dignity in the way Maribel has been treated cry out for people of faith to demand change in the way our broken immigration system is operating,” Atkinson said.