Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant mom of four who has been in sanctuary in a Denver church for nearly 90 days, went home today after she was granted a reprieve from deportation until 2019. It represents a much-needed victory not just for the local community that rallied to her cause, but for immigrant rights advocates everywhere who continue to fight so that millions just like Jeanette can continue to live, work, and raise their families in the U.S. with dignity and in peace:
“Yesterday, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. My hands were sweating. And I asked that my children to come to me. I needed to celebrate that news with them,” Vizguerra said in Spanish, according to local outlet Denver 7. “They are the reason for my life and my struggle.”
Vizguerra’s attorney, Hans Meyer, told HuffPost that the win represents a broader victory for fundamental American values.
“Jeanette Vizguerra reminds us that in this country we believe in basic fairness and due process of law,” he said. “That we believe in keeping families together. That we believe in hard work, dedication and struggle. Those are American values. Those are our community’s values. And those are Jeanette Vizguerra’s values.”
Jeanette—who was recently named one of Time’s 100 most influential people—took sanctuary in the church the night before her scheduled check-in with ICE. While Jeanette’s previous meetings with the agency had gone without incident under the Obama administration, Jeanette feared her first one under a President Trump would lead to her arrest. Her hunch was right—she found out that night that the ongoing stay on her deportation had not been extended by ICE.
“This is a special day for me,” Jeanette said Friday after leaving the church, “because I will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my children and my grandchildren. Even though I’ve been continuing the fight from the inside, I have missed my kids—this fight is for them.”
There’s no doubt that it’s the collective power of advocates that won this—Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock were all involved—and this people power is what advocates and allies must continue, because the reality is that an unshackled ICE is still overwhelmingly ramping up the arrests of people like Jeanette. In the meantime, she “is currently in the application process for a U-visa, a visa which is set aside for victims of crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.”
According to the We Belong Together campaign, Jeanette added that even though she is overjoyed that she can finally return to her four children, home, and everyday life, she is “sad” another undocumented immigrant mom and friend, Ingrid Latorre, is also in hiding in a Denver church and separated from her own precious children and home:
“Even though my struggle has not ended, my energy over the next two years will go towards fighting for her.”
In fact, the same day of her release from the church, Jeanette didn’t go directly home, but visited Ingrid instead. To sign the petition in support of Ingrid, click here.