Aurora mother of four faces deportation, in part because of new federal priorities

“Her stay has already been approved four years in a row, so it is concerning to see this change in behavior,” her lawyer said.
7 min. read
Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez. (Courtesy Jennifer Piper)

Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez. (Courtesy Jennifer Piper)

Update: Jimenez-Sanchez is being relocated, possibly out of state, raising fears that her deportation is imminent, according to advocate Jennifer Piper. Her supporters are rallying for her online. A response from ICE is at the bottom of this post.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have detained Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and a mother of four children, according to attorney Jennifer Kain-Rios.

Jimenez-Sanchez has no criminal convictions other than a 2012 incident of driving without a license, according to the attorney, and had in recent years been granted stays of removal that temporarily protected her from the deportation order pending against her. She has largely lived in Aurora since 1999.

"Her stay has already been approved four years in a row, so it is concerning to see this change in behavior," Kain-Rios said.

A spokesman for Rep. Mike Coffman, whose office has inquired about the case on behalf of Kain-Rios, says that the woman was detained because of new policies ordered by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

ICE has referred to Jimenez-Sanchez as an "egregious immigration violator," saying that she entered the United States without authorization four times. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan also has spoken out about the imminent deportation, saying that "(d)eporting mothers with a criminal record no worse than that of most U.S. citizens isn’t the purpose of having safe borders.”

The GEO private immigrant detention facility in Aurora. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kain-Rios has been working with U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman's office for assistance in the case.

Jimenez-Sanchez filed for her latest stay of removal on March 3 and received a denial later that month. The denial did not state a reason, Kain-Rios said.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 12, the woman reported for a regular check-in with ICE agents; they detained her, according to Kain-Rios, and she was held at the privately operated GEO facility in Aurora. Kain-Rios notes that there are "no new negative facts to consider in Maria de Jesus's case."

Instead, it appears to be a result of new federal orders from the Trump administration.

"We’ve been informed through Representative Coffman’s office that the reason of denial for her stay was a change in administration and a change in priorities issued through that administration," she said.

Rep. Coffman's office confirmed as much.

"Maria was denied a stay of removal because of a change in policy & priorities as a result from directives issued by Secretary Kelly," reads an email from Daniel Bucheli, spokesman for Coffman, to Denverite. 

"As we all know, her previous 3 stays were issued under a different Administration and Secretary. Being granted a stay of removal does not guarantee a future stay of removal to be approved. Each case is separate."

Trump so far has deported about the same number of people as Obama did in January and February of last year, as CNN and VICE report. However, the administration in recent weeks has moved to "take the shackles off individuals in these agencies," as White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said.

As the Los Angeles Times reported:

Though [DHS Secretary] Kelly emphasized that immigration officers should focus first on deporting convicted criminals or those charged with crimes, his directives nonetheless unleashed deportation officers to conduct more raids in immigrant communities, detain people who don’t have criminal convictions and remove people for minor infractions such as driving without a license.

The administration's new orders, which came just weeks before Jimenez-Sanchez's detainment, prioritize for deportation anyone who has been convicted of any criminal offense, as well as anyone who is subject to a final order of removal, among others. (Read the memo.)

More broadly, ICE "will no longer exempt classes or categories" of unauthorized immigrants from potential enforcement, the memo states.

Taken as a whole, immigration attorneys worry that the new orders leave no undocumented immigrants safe from deportation.

"According to the Trump administration, everybody that is undocumented is a priority for deportation," said Belén Albuja, an immigration attorney in Denver.

Supporters of Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez gather as she meets with ICE agents on Wednesday, April 12. She subsequently was detained. (Courtesy Roberto Vega)
Jimenez-Sanchez arrived in Aurora, 18 years ago, at age 22.

Her eldest child was born not long before.

She left again in February 2001 to visit her mother, who was very ill, her attorney said. She then attempted to return to the country with false documents in May 2001 but was detained by U.S. agents and ordered to leave on May 23, 2001.

Days later, she returned to the U.S. once more by riding in the back seat of a car, according to her attorney.

In 2012, Jimenez-Sanchez was pulled over for failing to use headlights and ticketed for driving without a license. This would become her only criminal conviction, her lawyer said, and it set in motion an order to once again remove her from the country. (Jimenez-Sanchez also was charged with domestic violence in 2014, but all charges were dismissed, her lawyer said.)

Jimenez-Sanchez expressed a fear of returning to Mexico, which until now had slowed the removal process, her attorney said.

Kain-Rios said she was able to speak by phone today with her client. Jimenez-Sanchez has received a letter in English, but her attorney has not received the letter.

"Between her English skills and my Spanish skills, we were able to figure out several different points in that letter. It seems to indicate she will have some sort of informal interview that may contain some kind of additional custody consideration."

It's unclear exactly what that meeting may bring, but "the threat of deportation is real," Kain-Rios said.

Meanwhile, Jimenez-Sanchez's 15-year-old daughter is due for an important school meeting.

"Her mother has been her educational advocate all her life. We’ve stressed that to the agency. There’s no reason for her to be detained."

Albuja said that Kain-Rios is a well-respected and skilled attorney. Albuja also has seen stays of removal denied in recent months.

"I haven’t heard about a similar case before, during the Obama administration. It doesn’t surprise me that they do that right now ... They had the power to do it before, but they were a little more humanitarian," she said after hearing a summary of this case.

"I don’t think it’s a larger pattern yet. But I think all of us have seen those motion for stay cases being denied. I think we’re going to see more and more cases."

ICE's response:

The following quotes are from a response that arrived Friday from ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok:

"After having illegally entered the United States four times, Araujo-Jimenez is considered to be an egregious immigration violator. She has exhausted her petitions through the immigration courts and through ICE."

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, as Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

"It is important to note, however, that the removal of non-criminal aliens is nothing new. Over the last five fiscal years (FY 2012 to 2016), about 41 to 45 % of total removals had no prior criminal convictions."

"ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately."

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