But despite her family’s legal status in the country, Lino, 50, has remained undocumented, relying on goodwill, her clean record and the policies of former president Barack Obama that spared immigrants like her from deportation.
Last week, her luck ran out.
During a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials — her first since President Trump signed executive orders to crack down on illegal immigration — Lino was told that come summer, she must return to Mexico.
The news gave her teenage daughter a panic attack.
The idea of losing her mother, Britzy Lino, 16, told The Washington Post late Monday, is “terrifying.”
“It’s very hard imagining life without my mother,” Britzy said. “We’ve been talking about what we’re going to do, what our plans are.”
Which is why on Monday outside the Chicago federal building, Francisca Lino stood in the cold, while inside, faith leaders and Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) met with ICE officials to plead for her freedom.
But Gutiérrez’s demands to reverse Lino’s deportation order were denied during the meeting, so the congressman, an outspoken immigration advocate and a fatherlike figure to Lino for the last 15 years, staged a sit-in that lasted five hours.
ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro told the Associated Press that officials had agreed to an “informational meeting” with the group but was not equipped to give “actions and assurances.”
Federal protective service officers warned the protesters several times to leave the building. When they refused, Gutiérrez and two others were placed briefly in plastic cuffs, then released.
“They were scared to arrest us because they know our cause is just,” he tweeted. “We ended our sit in but we will #resist.”
Still, Gutiérrez left with no new information for the immigrants he sought to help.
Outside, Lino wept.
“I feel very sad because I might have to leave,” she told CNN in Chicago. “But I’ll leave with my children. … I’m not going to leave them behind.”
In an interview with The Post late Monday, Lino said, through her daughter, that the day’s events left her sick and at a loss for words. Though Lino had previously vowed not to seek sanctuary at a church, she told The Post she is now willing to take “extreme measures.”
Whatever happens, Britzy Lino told The Post, her family has vowed to “try to stay together and fight for it together.”
It’s a battle not at all unfamiliar to her mother, whose struggle to stay in the United States has spanned four U.S. presidencies.
Francisca Lino was detained and deported when she first tried to cross the Mexican border in 1999, but attempted again a few months later and successfully settled in Chicago, according to past news reports. In 2001, she married Diego Lino, a U.S. citizen, and the two grew their family — a band of six children, now ages 15 to 27.
With her husband as a sponsor, Francisca Lino applied for legal residency and was transparent about her deportation in 1999. But during a 2005 hearing for that application, she was arrested and jailed for 21 days, according to news reports. Three years she later received a letter informing her she was to be deported.
Gutierrez came to her rescue then, too, arguing to ICE officials that the Lino family relied on her for financial and parental support. At the time, she and her husband owned a home in a Chicago suburb, and their jobs — she works in a chocolate factory and he is a school custodian — have not changed since.
Gutierrez and Lino’s attorney, Chris Bergin, filed a petition to delay her deportation for one year, or until the next president took office. Obama was elected later that year.
Obama’s policies, which ordered ICE officials to focus on undocumented immigrants who posed a threat to society, gave people such as Lino a pass — as long as she continued to show up for yearly check-ins with ICE.
And she did, without trouble, until last week.
Her family followed her to the appointment, aware she could be detained inside like other immigrants across the country since Trump took office.
But she emerged joyful an hour later, CNN reported.
“Thank God!” she yelled, according to CNN, explaining that the ICE officials had given her a year to obtain a visa.
As quickly as the relief came, it was extinguished.
Bergin, the attorney, called her back inside. There had been a miscommunication.
Come July, she was expected to return to the federal building, plane ticket and suitcases in tow.
“It’s honestly very scary,” Britzy told The Post Monday night. “But we’re trying to stay positive.”
Lino said she is “okay for now” and remains hopeful they will be able to resolve her case.
Her daughter has vowed to follow her mother wherever she goes.
“We don’t really leave the house without each other,” the 16-year-old said. “It’s an unbreakable bond.”
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