Federal immigration officials have deported a mother of two from Falls Church back to her native El Salvador despite eleventh-hour efforts by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and others to help her stay in the United States.
Liliana Cruz Mendez was deported Wednesday, according to CASA, the nonprofit group that represented her after she was detained in May at a routine check-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE confirmed the deportation.
After she was taken into custody, McAuliffe (D) pardoned Cruz Mendez’s 2014 conviction for a minor driving offense in hopes that it would spare her from having to leave the country.
The governor said she did not pose a public-safety threat. But federal immigration officials said she would be deported, noting that she had been in the United States illegally since 2006.
Cruz Mendez’s husband, Rene Bermudez, said the family was shattered by the deportation. He sobbed as he recounted how their children, aged 10 and 4, wept when they heard Cruz Mendez was gone.
“How can they take away their mother?” he said.
Bermudez said he cannot join his wife in El Salvador because he is in the process of obtaining a green card and must stay in the United States. He said he and his wife have been together for 15 years and have always paid taxes and gone to church.
He and his son and daughter last saw Cruz Mendez through a window at the immigration detention center.
“People don’t understand because they haven’t lived it. But believe me,” he said, his voice faltering, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Cases such as Cruz Mendez’s have infuriated advocates for immigrants and stymied Democrats in Congress who want ICE to focus on deporting criminals and others who pose a specific threat.
Some undocumented immigrants without serious criminal records also were deported during President Barack Obama’s administration.
But such cases seem to be more of a priority under President Trump, whose top immigration officials have said they won’t hesitate to oust anyone here illegally, including parents — like Cruz Mendez — whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens.
George Escobar, senior director of human services at CASA, said that Cruz Mendez’s deportation “confirms the inhumane and egregious intent of separating families that President Trump and Homeland Security Director John Kelly continue to pursue.”
Immigration agents arrested Cruz Mendez on May 18 when she arrived at a regular check-in. Her two previous stays of deportation had expired.
Trump has vowed to increase deportations. In his first 100 days in office, ICE agents arrested 41,318 immigrants, an increase of 37.6 percent over the same period last year. Most are criminals, according to federal officials, but the biggest increase in arrests was among immigrants with no criminal records.Those arrests more than doubled to nearly 11,000.