Once again facing deportation, immigrant rights leader Jeanette Vizguerra goes back into sanctuary
Jeanette Vizguerra has gone back into sanctuary. The immigrant rights leader had won a two year reprieve from deportation in 2017, using her time back in the world to be with her young children and fight for the freedom of other immigrants like her. But with her two years quickly running out, and her visa still pending, she had no choice but to return to First Unitarian Society of Denver last week:
Vizguerra choked back sobs as she spoke about the fear of having to leave her children and grandchildren. Her young daughter—seated on the shoulder of one of several supporters standing behind Vizguerra holding protest signs—looked down at Vizguerra and eventually climbed down to wrap her arms around her crying mother.
The mom of four had been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2017 for her fight to stay in the U.S., when she faced deportation after more than two decades here. It wasn’t an easy decision for the mom of four to make. “Tonight I have to think,” she said at the time. “Because I promised my children—and it was a promise—that it was going to be very difficult to remove me from this country. I have already fought so long to be here, now is not the time to give up.”
She ultimately spent 86 days at First Unitarian, and after leaving the church used her high profile to fight for others in sanctuary, like Aura Hernandez, as well as undocumented immigrant youth facing the loss of their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections. Vizguerra had applied for a special visa that’s given to victims of crime six years ago, but “due to significant backlogs in processing,” Sojourners notes, all she could do when it came to her own fate was to wait.
Vizguerra’s legal team has sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an effort to keep her here, while her advocates have gathered thousands of signatures urging a stop to her deportation. “I’m tired of hearing from people that I should go back and take my children back to Mexico,” Vizguerra said. “My roots are on this continent. If you think I should go back, you should pack up and go back to yours. We pay taxes. We work hard. I’m a mother just like any other mother who will do what is best for her children every time.”