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A woman battling Stage 3 breast cancer was released from jail in Arizona on Thursday, after being arrested for using a false documentation to work.

Bald from her on-going cancer treatments, Ruth Alvarez met with a Univision reporter at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, after being held for almost two weeks.


“I don’t feel like I’m in a safe place where I can really fight for my health and my freedom,” said Alvarez, who was brought into the interview in handcuffs and a striped uniform for inmates.

Alvarez’s attorney, Jose Peñalosa, says the case was “resolved” yesterday when a judge issued ordered for her release, changing the plea to a misdemeanor crime. Peñalosa noted that his client was forced to reschedule a mastectomy set for this week due to her 17-day detention.

“The county officials are obviously not oncologists,” said Peñalosa. “She wasn’t receiving the treatment she needed.”


Jail officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last year, Alvarez was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after she was arrested by Phoenix police for not having sufficient documents verifying her identity, according to her attorney.


Responding to a burglar alarm, the Phoenix police department encountered Alvarez working her shift at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and asked her to provide her identification. At that time, ICE was alerted, but decided to release her from detention within days.

But on April 1, local authorities arrested Alvarez again for the identity theft charges, this time on behalf of the Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, according to Alvarez’s attorney. The county attorney said in a press conference on Thursday that he hadn’t seen Alvarez’s medical records until this week.


“Given the health concerns, it also justified accelerating the timeframe, in which we can resolve the case,” said Montgomery on Wednesday.

A small crowd of family members, supporters and media gathered when Alvarez was released on Thursday morning. Her attorney said she would go home and rest, and check into the hospital tomorrow.


Media scrutiny and public outrage shifted the tide of Alvarez’s case, according to her attorney. The case was covered by outlets like Univision, Fox News and The Huffington Post.

“I believe she would still be in there if it were not for media attention,” he said. ”She would have had no one at her side during all this.”


Although her identity theft charges are now resolved, Alvarez is still undocumented and could face deportation if ICE decides to pursue her case.

Montgomery said he wasn’t sure how federal immigration authorities would handle the situation. According to Montgomery, federal officials had issued a “hold” on Alvarez when she was arrested, requesting that local authorities keep her in custody until a federal immigration agent could take up the case.


“I believe that there was an immigration hold placed on her, so I don’t know what’s going to happen next when it comes to any further detention for federal immigration proceedings,” he said. “There’s been no coordination between this office and ICE or anybody on the federal side."

Cristina is an Emmy-nominated reporter and producer. She recently won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for her documentary Death by Fentanyl. She attended Yale University and has reported for the New Haven Independent, ABC News, Univision, The Huffington Post, and Fusion.

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