Va. immigrant advocate, mom detained by ICE

Immigration advocate detained by ICE

FALLS CHURCH, VA (WUSA9) - She’s a usually protesting to keep immigrants from being deported. Now, CASA says they’re fighting for one of their own members.

A 30-year-old Virginia woman was detained Thursday after a routine ICE check-in according to her attorney.

“Everyone’s just feeling like if you’re undocumented immigrant here, then you’re in danger of being detained and really, that’s true," said her attorney Lila Zazula. 

This is one of the first times we heard a CASA advocate say this on camera. It came after CASA members sent out mass emails and text messages quickly organizing a protest for the 30-year-old’s release. It started at around 8:30 a.m. when Liliana Cruz Mendez went in for one of her check-ins at ICE offices in Fairfax, Va.

RELATED: Immigration arrests up 38% nationwide under Trump

Cruz Mendez was arrested by border patrol in 2006 after entering the country illegally, according to an ICE Spokesperson. She was fleeing violence in El Salvador, according to family.

Then in 2014, CASA says police pulled the Falls Church woman over for a broken headlight. She had no license and her status was discovered.

Zazula says this is the only thing on her record and still, even after this, Zazula says Cruz Mendez was issued three stays of deportation in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

“They wouldn’t let me in with her …” said Zazula, “I looked through the door and the way she was looking at me was, it was – it was really heavy.”

By around noon Thursday, the family learned Cruz Mendez wasn’t even at the Fairfax location anymore. She had phoned her attorney to tell her. They took her to another location but CASA says ICE wouldn’t tell her or any of the CASA attorneys where. They later learned she was taken to a facility in Woodbridge.

This is all part of President Trump fulfilling his campaign promise, according reporting by our media partner the Washington Post.

In a recent article, the Post reported, “Acting ICE director Thomas Homan said the statistics released Wednesday show that agents still prioritize lawbreakers: 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Meanwhile, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the fastest-growing category by far.”

The 30-year-old is not only married. She has two American-born kids, who are 10 and four-years-old.

Rene Bermudez is Cruz Mendez’s husband. He told WUSA9 he’s also an immigrant.

RELATED: Maryland woman 'adopts' Syrian refugee family

In Spanish, Bermudez said he hopes President Trump understands the situation his family is going through.

Lawmakers are responding to the hashtag, #FreeLiliana.

Congressman Gerry Connelly also emailed the following statement:

“I have contacted DHS and ICE to protest this action. Liliana is a mother of two American children and poses no public safety or national security threat. I won't stand by silently while this Administration seeks to break up Northern Virginia families.”

An ICE Spokesperson later sent WUSA9 the following statement:

“Ms. Cruz-Mendez was originally arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol in February 2006. An immigration judge ordered her removed from the United States in April 2006. In December 2013, Ms. Cruz-Mendez entered ICE custody after she was charged with local offenses, and she was released on an order of supervision. She has one misdemeanor conviction. ICE exercised prosecutorial discretion on two previous occasions by granting Ms. Cruz-Mendez a stay of removal in June 2014 and May 2015.”

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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