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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Draper mother deported despite last-minute push

By Annie Knox  |  Posted Apr 6th, 2017 @ 7:52pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — An undocumented Draper mother being deported to Colombia missed her flight to South America on Thursday, providing a brief "glimmer of hope" that she would receive legal permission to stay in the United States, her friends said.

Her attorneys rushed to the airport. They overnighted legal paperwork to federal immigration officers. Sen. Orrin Hatch's office tried to snag her more time. The Colombian Consulate in San Francisco also flexed its muscle.

It wasn't enough. Her lawyers ran out of time to revive years-old proceedings that would allow her to stay and care for her 18-year-old son with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, as well as her 86-year-old mother.

"There is a glimmer of hope she might stay," said Sharlee Mullins Glenn, a friend of the woman and leader of the recently formed Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

The Draper resident identified by her supporters as Isabel was set to depart on an 11 p.m. flight. The scramble followed a Thursday morning protest attended by her friends and advocates at Salt Lake City International Airport.

Her friends used a pseudonym to protect the woman's privacy and that of her family. She declined to talk to reporters Thursday.

The group said the woman's experience signals bolstered immigration action that threatens to divide Utah families and targets people who pose no threat to their communities.

But others are cheering stronger action against undocumented Utah residents, saying federal immigration law must be enforced in all cases.

At the airport, names on the woman's passport and driver's license did not match up, delaying her at security.

Isabel is not alone, said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Escamilla estimates she has spoken with up to 10 constituents and others in deportation proceedings since Donald Trump took office in January. More undocumented Utah parents without criminal records are being told to leave the country, Escamilla said, and on shorter deadlines than before.

"That's a lot of cases. I've never seen that many," she said. "It's super frustrating, because I know they're trying everything and their families are being split."

As a state senator, Escamilla lacks power to prevent deportations. She counsels parents to make sure before leaving that their American-born children have passports and a legal guardian.

Glenn's group and representatives from Salt Lake Indivisible called for Utah and federal officers to grant stays or legal extensions for those facing deportation. Isabel's was rejected, the group said.

"We are seeing people with the most sympathetic cases being turned down," said Kristina Ruedas, a Salt Lake City immigration attorney.

U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement under the Trump administration has parted from using its discretion to grant stays to undocumented residents caring for disabled or elderly family members, Ruedas said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert could not be made available to respond. He was travelling out of state, a spokeswoman said.

Tiffany Smith, of Millcreek, joins others at a press conference at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, April 6, 2017. The group Mormon Women for Ethical Government and others gathered to protest the deportation of Utah resident Isabel, a pseudonym, and the federal government's "changed priorities" for deportation. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

However difficult for families, the strengthened ICE enforcement is a good thing because it applies federal law evenly, said Easton Brady, deputy director for Trump's campaign in Utah.

"Sometimes it can be really heartbreaking for people, but there's consequences because you broke the law" by living in the U.S. without permission, Brady said.

Isabel, for her part, received some help this week from her Mormon bishop, who worked with Glenn's group to draw attention to the deportation. In statements about immigration reform, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said "families are meant to be together" and that forced separation "weakens families and damages society."

Hatch spokeswoman Heather Barney said the senator's office receives countless requests from Utah families involved in immigration cases. But the office doesn't comment on specific cases in order to protect privacy of those seeking help.

An ICE spokesman said in a statement that Isabel "overstayed her original temporary visa by more than 25 years," entering the United States in May 1991 on a temporary visa that expired the following August.

She unsuccessfully sought approval to stay in April 1997. And she received a final order of removal roughly two years after overstaying a court deadline allowing her to avoid penalties if she left voluntarily.

From 1999 to 2014, she was granted deferred action — an extension on her deadline to leave — and three more one-year stays, ICE said.

Isabel declined to apply for citizenship, believing she would have to leave the country as part of that process and that there was a chance she wouldn't be allowed to return to care for her son and mother, Glenn said.

The Deseret News was not able to independently verify whether Isabel had ever been charged with a crime.

It could be three years before she sees her son again. When he turns 21, he may apply for her to receive a waiver to return, Glenn said.

Tay Gudmundson, from Utah County, drove her three sons and her daughter — ages 2, 4, 6 and 8 — to the Thursday rally. Her boys held signs saying, "Sons need their mothers," and "ICE is unethical."

Gudmundson's Utah-born children, she said, "have no chance of being deported. I have no chance of being deported. It's important for them to understand how privileged they are."

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