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Mexico's Government Warns Its Citizens Of 'New Reality' In U.S.

Family members and supporters of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos gather at a news conference outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix on Thursday.
Steve Fluty
Family members and supporters of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos gather at a news conference outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix on Thursday.

The sudden deportation Thursday of an Arizona woman who had regularly checked in with U.S. immigration authorities for years has prompted a stark warning from Mexico's government.

Mexican nationals in the U.S. now face a "new reality," authorities warned in a statement.

"The case of Mrs. [Guadalupe] Garcia de Rayos illustrates the new reality that the Mexican community faces in the United States due to the more severe application of immigration control measures," the statement reads. "For this reason, the entire Mexican community should take precautions and keep in touch with the nearest consulate, to obtain the necessary help to face this kind of situation."

Mexico is urging its citizens in the U.S. to "familiarize themselves with the different scenarios they may face and know where to go to receive updated guidance and know all their rights."

Garcia de Rayos, 35, had lived in the U.S. for more than two decades and her two children are both U.S. citizens. The Two-Way has reported on the details of her case:

"In 2008, Garcia de Rayos was arrested while she was working at a water park, during a raid carried out by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Arpaio's workplace raids have been challenged in court as unconstitutional; the case is ongoing.) In 2009, she was convicted of possessing false papers. In 2013, ICE says, an order for her deportation was finalized.

"But Garcia de Rayos was allowed to continue to live in Arizona, under supervision and with regular check-ins with ICE, as member station KJZZ reports."

That changed when she appeared for a check-in on Wednesday, as activists and supporters rallied outside the ICE office. The next day, she was deported to Nogales, Mexico.

Her deportation is seen as a sign of President Trump's more aggressive deportation priorities compared with Barack Obama. The former president had prioritized the deportation of people who were convicted of crimes such as aggravated felonies, terrorism or activity in a criminal street gang. Immigration-related offenses were deemed lower priority.

But Trump's executive order on immigration, issued on Jan. 25, significantly broadens the government's deportation priorities. It includes people in the U.S. illegally who "have been convicted of any criminal offense," "have been charged with any criminal offense," "have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense" or "are subject to a final order of removal," among other criteria.

"So certainly the scope of the executive order, if interpreted broadly, would be large enough to encompass most if not all of the unauthorized population," Randy Capps of the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute tells NPR's Adrian Florido.

Immigration advocates like Marisa Franco from the advocacy group Mijente fear that this is the start of a pattern. "The battle lines have been drawn. We know that this case will be replicated in many places across the country," Franco told reporters on a conference call. "And we think it's critically important for communities to take a stand."

Lawyers and activists say Garcia de Rayos' deportation could make others in her position scared to speak with immigration authorities. In fact, her attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado told Adrian that he will advise clients in the same position to seek sanctuary in a church.

"Or if you do show up, this is what's going happen to you. But that's gotta be the advice, because it's no fun walking someone to the slaughter," he said.

Garcia de Rayos, flanked by her children, spoke to reporters in Nogales late Thursday. "I'm doing this for my kids so they have a better life. I will keep fighting so they can keep studying in their home country," she said, according to The Associated Press. "We're a united family. We're a family who goes to church on Sundays, we work in advocacy. We're active."

"It's a nightmare having your mother taken away from you," her son Angel tells Fronteras. "The person who is always there for you. Seeing her taken away in a bunch of vans like she was a huge criminal. It feels like a dream. But it's reality and we have to face it. We have to keep on fighting for what we want. And yeah, we're going to support our community and our mother. We're going to keep on fighting."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.