Good news for immigration activist

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Jeanette Vizguerra hugs friends and fellow activists after announcing her year-long stay of removal in front of the ICE office in Centennial on Feb. 24.
Eric Leveridge AFSC

Jeanette Vizguerra has been fighting deportation for seven years. But last week she won a significant victory. On Feb. 17 she was granted a one-year stay of removal by the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Centennial, and on Feb. 24 she was notified her next ICE check-in won’t be until Feb. 17, 2017.

“In the past my stays have been of six months, and every time I have to renew it’s a lot of money, and it’s a lot of emotional stress,” she says via a translator. “This time, it’s for one year.” 

As Vizguerra told Boulder Weekly in August 2015, she immigrated to Colorado from Mexico City in 1997 because of increasing crime at home that was threatening her husband’s income. The mother of four and grandmother of three has been working tirelessly to stay in Colorado with her family ever since she was pulled over for dirty plates in 2009. Since then, she has been held in immigration detention and spent several months back in Mexico trying to see if she could support her family. Eventually, she has survived with six-month stay of removals that at times haven’t been renewed until after the previous one expired.

She has also been involved with public advocacy campaigns, speaking out against the treatment of immigrants in the detention center and petitioning for immigration reform.

She says the most recent stay of removal feels significant because the notification letter came from the local ICE office, instead of the national office in Washington D.C., within two weeks of her renewal application.

“In the past, we have not been getting support or justice coming out of the local office,” she says. “This is not just in my case, but in many other cases the local office has not been responsive, and we have had to take it to a higher level to the national office. And in this case the local office acted in the right way.”

She believes her public media campaign as well as a pending U Visa application accounts for the change in behavior by ICE. As a victim of a crime over 12 years ago, Vizguerra applied for a U Visa with her most recent stay application. If granted, it would give Vizguerra legal status in the U.S. and provide a path to permanent residency and even citizenship.

“It’s not just me, it’s my children,” she says. “They have suffered and fought along with me. It feels really good to know there is a possibility of getting the U Visa and having status. It gives me great hope.”

Vizguerra is uncertain about when she might hear about her U Visa application. However, she celebrates her most recent stay and hopes her case will encourage others to keep fighting for immigration reform, especially in this election year. Ultimately, she believes the system can be changed.

“For some people [a one-year stay] may not seem like that big of a deal,” Vizguerra says. “But for those of us who are fighting our cases these small important victories along the way are critical, and this is how we move forward.”

Jeanette Vizguerra celebrates with her kids, friends and supporters.
Jeanette Vizguerra celebrates with her kids, friends and supporters. Gabriela Flora AFSC