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Maryland Community Rallies Around Grandmother Facing Deportation After Routine Traffic Stop

Despite the Obama administration’s new policy of suspending deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are set to deport a 59-year-old grandmother of four with family members who are U.S. citizens.

A routine traffic stop last June landed Josefina Rodriguez-Vega in the cross hairs of federal immigration enforcement. She was arrested for driving without a license, but released under house arrest and given until January 5 to “voluntarily” leave the country. When Rodriguez-Vega tried to stay in the country after that date by removing her GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet, officials took her to an immigration detention facility.

Maryland faith and community leaders have rallied around Rodriguez-Vega. Dozens of Hagerstown residents protested her pending deportation outside of ICE offices in Baltimore on Wednesday:

“She’s not a criminal,” said her son, David. “She never did anything wrong to be in the process of deportation. She came here from Mexico because her family is here and there’s only poverty there.” “The question, ‘Why Josefina?’ is critical because she is a Grandmother, she has no criminal record, she does have U.S. citizens in her family, and she has deep ties to her community,” said Elizabeth Alex with Casa de Maryland.What makes this case unique is that it directly contradicts a new policy by the Department of Homeland Security. The policy puts a priority on deporting criminals, not 59-year-old grandmothers.” But a spokeswoman for ICE says Rodriguez-Vega became a fugitive with criminal misdemeanor convictions when she removed her GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet.

In short, Rodriguez-Vega was caught in a catch-22: she had no criminal record before being snared by ICE, but the act of resisting deportation made her a criminal eligible to be sent back to Mexico.

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Officials have not given a date for Rordriguez-Vega’s deportation, but Elizabeth Alex argues that she is a classic example of someone who does not deserve to be deported after living in the U.S. for six years.

A New York Times report in November showed that the policy of prioritizing the deportation of criminals over nonviolent immigrants with deep family ties in the U.S. has been implemented unevenly. A recent test run of the policy in Denver granted reprieve to just 1,600 immigrants out of 7,900 cases, and they were not given legal immigration status.