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After Years Of Uneventful Check-Ins, Arizona Woman Is Arrested, Deported

Guadalupe García de Rayos, shown here outside the Phoenix office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was deported after more than two decades of living in the U.S.
Matthew Casey
Guadalupe García de Rayos, shown here outside the Phoenix office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was deported after more than two decades of living in the U.S.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET

An Arizona woman who has lived in the U.S. for more than two decades was arrested Wednesday night after her regular check-in with immigration officials and has been deported to Mexico. She was sent to Nogales, Mexico, on Thursday, reports Katherine Fritcke of member station KJZZ.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' deportation — which has been protested by dozens of activists, some of whom were arrested late Wednesday — is a glimpse of how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration.

She had had a deportation order against her for several years but was not considered a priority for deportation during the Obama administration. But two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order changing deportation priorities; Garcia de Rayos is believed to be one of the first people deported under that expanded enforcement.

The New York Times reports that Garcia de Rayos, now 35, was just 14 when she "sneaked across the border" from a poor district in Mexico into southern Arizona.

Her lawyer tells Fritcke that she missed the cutoff for DACA status by four months.

Garcia de Rayos married a man who is also in the country illegally, and they had two children, who are U.S. citizens.

In 2008, Garcia de Rayos was arrested while she was working at a water park, during a raid carried out by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Arpaio's workplace raids have been challenged in court as unconstitutional; the case is ongoing.) In 2009, she was convicted of possessing false papers. In 2013, ICE says, an order for her deportation was finalized.

But Garcia de Rayos was allowed to continue to live in Arizona, under supervision and with regular check-ins with ICE, as member station KJZZ reports.

You may remember that former President Barack Obama instructed the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize some deportations over others. He told immigration authorities to focus on people in the country illegally who were convicted of certain kinds of crimes — including aggravated felonies, terrorism or gang activity. Crimes directly related to immigration status weren't a priority, he said. In 2014, Obama said the goal was to deport felons, criminal and gang members, "not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids."

(Obama still deported more people than any previous U.S. president, and last year The Marshall Project reported that most of those deportations involved people with no criminal conviction or whose only conviction was immigration-related.)

But on Jan. 25, Trump issued an executive order that instructed the secretary of homeland security to "prioritize for removal" anyone in the country illegally who has been convicted of, or even just charged with, any criminal offense. That's "far broader" than Obama's system, as The Atlantic reported.

Garcia de Rayos realized the situation had changed when she walked into the ICE offices for her check-in on Wednesday. The Times reports that an activist suggested she could go into into hiding or find refuge at a church, but she "decided to face the odds."

"The only crime my mother committed was to go to work to give a better life for her children," Garcia de Rayos' teenage daughter said, according to the Times. Then Garcia de Rayos and her lawyer entered the building, as supporters gathered outside the building.

They waited for hours.

In the evening, a van attempted to drive away from the ICE office. Immigration activists identified Garcia de Rayos inside and sat on the ground around the vehicle, live-streaming the confrontation on Facebook.

Several of the protesters were arrested. The group of demonstrators blocked the van's movement for a while, but it later left the ICE office through a different route.

On Thursday, Garcia was deported.

Her daughter Jacqueline spoke at a press conference Thursday.

"To me it's sad, seeing what this world has come to, seeing that this world has so much hate," she said. "Seeing my mom in that van, it's unexplainable."

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.