BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA) -- Dozens of people gathered Wednesday outside Baltimore's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters, to protest the pending deportation of a 59-year-old illegal immigrant from Hagerstown. Josefina Rodriguez-Vega was first arrested last June for driving without a license. The 59-year-old grandmother of four was later released on house arrest. But last Thursday, she was taken to an immigration detention facility in Ocean City.
"She's not a criminal," said her son, David. "She never did anything wrong to be in the process of deportation. She came here from Mexico because her family is here and there's only poverty there."
"The question, 'Why Josefina?' is critical because she is a Grandmother, she has no criminal record, she does have U.S. citizens in her family, and she has deep ties to her community," said Elizabeth Alex with Casa de Maryland. "What makes this case unique is that it directly contradicts a new policy by the Department of Homeland Security. The policy puts a priority on deporting criminals, not 59-year-old grandmothers."
But a spokeswoman for ICE says Rodriguez-Vega became a fugitive with criminal misdemeanor convictions when she removed her GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet:
"The case of Ms. Josefina Rodriguez-Vega, a citizen and national of Mexico, falls within ICE 's enforcement priorities as she was an ICE fugitive with criminal misdemeanor convictions. On Sept. 7, 2011, an immigration judge in Baltimore granted Ms. Rodriguez voluntary departure until Jan. 5, 2012. She removed and destroyed her Alternatives to Detention Program ankle bracelet and failed to deport, becoming an ICE fugitive. On Jan. 12 she was located and arrested by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers and is currently in ICE custody facing removal to Mexico."
Still, Rodriguez-Vega's family and supporters are asking ICE officials to reconsider.
"She's a good person. She never hurt anybody. We're really sad. We're really hurt because it's an injustice," said David.