Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Aurora today denied a stay of removal for undocumented immigrant and longtime Denver activist Jeanette Vizguerra.
The move now places Vizguerra, who has lived in Denver for 20 years and has received multiple stays in the past, at risk of deportation. This morning, fearing that ICE would deny the stay and seek to detain her for deportation, she chose to skip her appointment at the Aurora detention center and instead sought sanctuary in a Denver church.
Upon word that immigration had denied the stay, many supporters who gathered outside the center began crying. Vizguerra addressed them via telephone speaker amplified by a megaphone.
“Today ICE broke trust with me and the community. By denying my stay, they made it clear that check-ins are not a place that you can count on to be safe, and to negotiate and find a way forward. There isn’t any trust going forward,” she said through tears.
Vizguerra, 45, is originally from Mexico, but she has lived in Denver for nearly 20 years, working as a janitor and labor organizer and volunteering with several progressive groups. She first came to the attention of the authorities in 2009, when she was pulled over for having expired license plates and police discovered she was using a false social security number to work. The resulting charges have followed her ever since.
ICE officials said her failure to show up for her hearing resulted in the denial. In its statement, the agency noted her two misdemeanor convictions and pointed out that in 2011, a federal immigration judge issued a final order of deportation.
Under the Obama administration, Vizguerra was not, however, considered a priority for deportation. Under President Donald Trump, the priorities have changed.
“Jeanette’s case is Exhibit A of the brutality and the stupidity of Trump’s immigration enforcement plan,” Vizguerra’s attorney, Hans Meyers said. “The Trump administration is trying to bully people into giving up their rights, instill fear in immigrant communities and deprive immigrant of due process. We will not let that happen.”
Now that Vizguerra has entered sanctuary, she will live in the church full-time and only see her three children on weekends.
A year ago, Senate President Bill Cadman shocked lawmakers at the state capitol by thanking the Koch-backed conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity for making it possible for Republicans to take over the state Senate.
The group marshalled its considerable resources to make sure the Senate staying in Republican hands and to help fend off of Democratic challenger to Republican Congressman Mike Coffman.
It is now positioning itself to play a major role in shaping the 2017 legislative session.
The group is pushing Republican lawmakers to hold the line on removing a fee hospitals pay the state from state revenue and spending limits. Doing so, would free up hundreds of millions of dollars for roads, health care and education, proponents argue.
Americans for prosperity is also calling for a cut in Medicaid spending to pay for roads, a controversial move that House Majority Leader KC Becker promptly shot down.
“AFP doesn’t make the hard decisions about who to cut in Medicaid,” Becker told The Colorado Independent. “If you make that cut you’re denying someone access to healthcare, and that’s not a benefit to the state…Denying someone healthcare makes them sick, and they make other people sick and miss work. Is that what they achieve to aim with this?”
Last week, three Republicans who want to be considered for governor in 2018 lined up at the capitol to make their pitches before AFP members last week.
Republican leaders of the state House and Senate also joined in for AFP Day at the Capitol. Senate President Kevin Grantham praised the group for “giving a voice to all Coloradans who seek fiscal restraint and are supportive of free markets…. You folks keep us honest.”
Since President Donald Trump was sworn in last month, a broad backlash to his policies and the Republican agenda in Washington have led to protests outside the congressional offices of federal lawmakers in their home states, as well as thousands of phone calls to their headquarters.
In Colorado, Republican Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora told The Colorado Independent he planned to hold a large public town hall that could accommodate up to 300 people. That was in January after more than 100 people flocked to a public meeting he held at a library, many of them wanting answers about his wish to repeal Obamacare. Coffman bolted the meeting a few minutes early out a back door.
Now, the congressman says he will be holding town hall meetings by telephone to hear what his constituents think about the Affordable Care Act.
The move came under immediate fire from Democrats.
“Coffman’s shameful decision to hide from his constituents is not going to silence their voices.” aid Tyler Law, the spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Coffman won his latest re-election in November handily, beating Democrat Morgan Carroll, the state’s former Senate Majority Leader. His district encompasses the suburbs of Denver where Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters are almost evenly divided.
For more on these and other local news stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com.