Utah activist Cecilia Figueroa avoids deportation for now

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“As of now Cecilia will be staying in the United States, out of custody, to continue her asylum case,” Luis Garza, executive director of the immigrant-aid group Comunidades Unidas said in a short written statement Tuesday.

“It will be a long and difficult process, but we will all be behind her to support. We will not be able to comment on specifics about her case as the legal process continues,” he added.

Alethea Smock, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said Tuesday she had no comment on the situation. Often if ICE accepts an appeal for asylum, it is not able to comment on it nor the location of the individual.

Figueroa was ordered to be deported by Labor Day after being taken into custody during a routine check-in appointment with ICE. She and supporters contended that if she is returned home to a violent part of Mexico, it could have become a massacre day.

Figueroa said she had never been allowed to seek asylum amid that danger. About 150 protesters rallied Friday at the West Valley City offices of ICE pleading for the agency to delay her deportation to allow that.

Figueroa is a psychiatrist by trade and is known in Utah as an immigrant-rights activist and as a volunteer for Comunidades Unidas and the Guadalupe School who helped residents access health care, education and nutrition.

Figueroa sent a written message to that rally last week talking about her fears.

“One of my nephews was kidnapped and murdered” by organized crime seeking money from her family that it did not have, she wrote in Spanish. “After a month, they found my nephew’s body torn apart and decapitated.”

She said two other nephews survived attempted kidnappings.

The trouble with her return would be, “People back home think that a newly returning immigrant coming from the United States has a lot of money” — and worries that will make targets of her and her extended family.

“I cannot even fathom that because of my return, my family members might be victims of these crimes all over again,” she said, adding that she fled Guerrero, Mexico, 11 years ago to escape such violence.

Protesters portrayed Figueroa as a poster child for the havoc created by the Trump administration choosing now to target any undocumented immigrant for deportation instead of mainly focusing on those with criminal records.

“To force someone to return where they are endangered — this is not making America great again,” the Rev. Monica Dobbins of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City said to cheers by fellow protesters.