Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented mother of four who has been living in a Denver church basement since February, was granted an almost two-year stay of removal from the United States on Thursday, The Denver Post reported.
According to a statement posted by her lawyers at Meyer Law Office, Vizguerra’s stay of removal application was approved through March 15, 2019.
“It’s a special day for me because I will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my children and my grandchildren,” Vizguerra said, speaking through a translator at a Friday morning press conference. “It’s been three difficult months because even though I’ve been continuing my struggle from inside, I really missed my children.”
Arturo Hernandez Garcia, an immigrant also previously took sanctuary in a Denver church, was also given a stay of deportation.
Hernandez Garcia and Vizguerra benefited from the efforts of Senator Michael Bennett and Representative Jared Polis, who introduced “private bills” on their behalf, the Post reported.
“That’s a means by which Congress or individual congresspeople can essentially lift up or put forth the name of somebody that they feel should be able to have some avenue towards status,” Hernandez Garcia’s attorney, Laura Lichter explained at the press conference. “Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t, but as a courtesy–because that request was made–there was a policy that was in place, and we got a two-year reprieve while that potentially works its way through Congress.”
In an ominous sign that this situation is changing, however, immigration officials announced in a letter that ICE will no longer routinely postpone deportations of immigrants like Vizguerra featured in “private bills,” The San-Diego Union Tribune reported earlier this week.
“While I am grateful that Jeanette will be afforded more time in the U.S. and the due process she deserves, I am concerned for the countless families that will continue to be torn apart by ICE’s new policy and alarmed by the blatant disregard for our legislative process,” Polis said in a statement posted by Meyer Law Office.
Vizguerra’s stay of removal is the latest in her almost eight-year-long struggle to remain in the U.S. As Fusion reported last month:
Vizguerra, a Mexican national, has been in the U.S. for 20 years. But in 2009, she was arrested and plead guilty for having fake identification that her lawyer said she only acquired to be able to work as a janitor and union organizer. The arrest set in motion deportation proceedings, but she was granted at least five postponements. Yet, faced with an upcoming regular check-in with ICE–meetings that have increasingly become a fraught pretense for arresting undocumented residents–Vizguerra decided to seek refuge at the Unitarian church.
Vizguerra explained at the press conference that when she got the news of her stay Thursday, her hands were sweaty, and she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. While she was happy about her own case, she also worried for another woman seeking sanctuary in a different church.
“Before coming here, I went to visit her and I said to her that with my case, I would continue fighting for her case as well,” she said. “Even though my case has not ended, these next two years, my energies are going to be to fight for her,” she added.