UPDATED: Immigrant mother of three with no criminal record deported

Family separation could have lifelong repercussions.

Lourdes Salazar Bautista (second from left). CREDIT: The Quintana-Salazar family
Lourdes Salazar Bautista (second from left). CREDIT: The Quintana-Salazar family

On Tuesday, Lourdes Salazar Bautista, a Mexican immigrant mom with three U.S. citizen children, will board a plane from Michigan and be deported to a country she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office has ordered the deportation of Salazar Bautista this week, and immigrant advocates have confirmed that she has a plane ticket to Mexico set for Tuesday.

Salazar Bautista came to the United States in 1997, but an immigration judge ordered her deported in absentia the following year. She said she never received the notice for her court date and its subsequent decision. When ICE detained her in 2010, she was released on the condition that her undocumented husband be deported to Mexico instead. He is now living in Mexico.

For the past seven years, Salazar Bautista has gone to her local ICE office to receive a stay of removal as part of her check-in process to temporarily defer her deportation. At her latest check-in in March under the Trump administration, she was told she would be removed in early August.

“According to new policies, what [the ICE agency] told me was that they had to clear all their open cases—all their archives—and that my case was a priority for deportation,” Salazar Bautista told ThinkProgress in a phone interview last Friday.

President Donald Trump has long railed against undocumented immigrants, pointing out that he would deport the criminals, rapists, and drug dealers. But in August 2016, then-presidential candidate Trump also said it was a “very, very hard thing” to deport someone “who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out.”

Since coming into office in January, Trump’s immigration policies have granted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency to authorize its officers and agents to detain undocumented immigrants, regardless of the severity of criminal offenses that they commit, for potential deportation proceedings. As former DHS Secretary John Kelly alluded to in April and acting ICE director Thomas Homan reiterated in June, no undocumented immigrant will be safe from deportation.

“ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” ICE spokesperson Khaalid Walls told ThinkProgress over email, when asked about Salazar Bautista. “However, as Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will not 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.”

This is a marked shift from Obama, whose tiered deportation policy sought to focus enforcement resources on people convicted of serious criminal offenses and “felons, not families.” With three U.S. citizen children and longstanding ties to the United States, Salazar Bautista would have been considered a low-priority deportation case under Obama’s administration.

As a contributing member in her community and a U.S. taxpayer, Salazar Bautista says that her children would suffer the most if she’s deported. Her two younger children, who are unfamiliar with Mexico, would permanently leave with her. They have been fiercely resistant to the move. And while her oldest daughter will come with them for a week, she would return to continue her studies at Michigan State University.

“I want to yell it to the world—to Trump—that I am not a criminal, that I’m a good person, that I’m a working person,” Salazar Bautista said, holding back tears on the phone call. “I work for my children so that they can be good people for their community, for the country, for the world. I want to yell at Trump that I am not a criminal and that I should be with my children and not be deported.”

As of Monday, Walls said that the “agency will continue to closely monitor her case to ensure compliance.” Immigrant advocates—who had hoped that the ICE agency would grant her an eleventh-hour stay of removal—sent out a Facebook invite calling on people to “rally for Lourdes and her family one last time as they depart to Mexico.”

Since Trump took office, Salazar Bautista became one of many immigrant parents who have been ordered deported after years of living in the United States. Another immigrant parent, Jesus Lara Lopez, who worked packing cookies at Pepperidge Farms in Willard, Ohio was recently deported for driving without a license in 2008. He left behind four U.S.-born children.

John Sandweg, the former Acting Director of ICE and former Acting General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security, believes that ICE has been indiscriminate in deporting immigrants, regardless of the crime’s severity, so that the Trump administration could set a record number of deportations.

“The reality is that [the ICE agency does] have a priority and it’s to try and set a record number of deportations,” Sandweg said last Friday. “To actually do that—with the complexity of the immigration enforcement system, you actually do need to implement a priority. And their priority is to focus on individuals who can be deported quickly. In plain English, these are individuals who do not need to see an immigration court judge.”

Studies bear out that separating immigrants from their children could cause irreparable harm to families. A new report by the Center for American Progress published Monday found the deportation of a parent could leave lifelong effects on children. (Editor’s note: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed within the Center for American Progress.) Undergoing persistent levels of high stress alters the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of children. And the enduring impact of stress could leave children with poorer health as compared to their peers, disrupt their schooling process, and leave them in “deep emotional and economic turmoil.”

Special thanks to Luz Viviana Meza for help with Spanish-language translation.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Salazar Bautista left on a plane headed to Mexico. Before she left, supporters and family members gathered at the airport to see her off.