Denver – Jeanette Vizguerra, an Aurora, Colorado business-owner who is supporting a cancer-stricken husband and three young children, could be deported to Mexico after being stopped for a traffic violation, in a case that has rallied the community behind her.
Evangelical pastors, Catholic priests and a rabbi led a group Monday in front of the Denver federal court to pray for the undocumented Mexican immigrant.
"Our cries for justice before this court and our banners are a way of praying to God to intervene on behalf of those who suffer injustice. What we do is no different from what the prophets did in ancient times," the Rev. Anne Dunlap of Comunidad Liberacion/Liberation Community Church said.
Vizguerra, a native of Mexico City, moved to Colorado with her husband 14 years ago. In 2000, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and the illness returned with greater severity three years ago, making him no longer able to work.
The mother of a grown-up daughter and three U.S.-born children ages 8, 6 and 3 months, the immigrant owns a moving and cleaning company with 12 full-time employees.
She also works two other jobs part-time to pay the medical bills and support her family.
Prior to the traffic stop, Vizguerra's application for permanent residence was proceeding normally, her supporters say.
"The first question the officer asked her was whether she was in the country legally or not. Since Jeanette couldn't present the documents the officers asked for, she was arrested and spent several days in jail," Rev. Daniel Klawitter of the Interfaith Worker Justice Committee of Colorado said.
After her arrest, Vizguerra's immigration status "crumbled," said Nicole Melaku, spokeswoman of Rights for All People, a pro-immigrant organization in Denver that is helping Vizguerra and her family.
According to Melaku, Vizguerra has no criminal record and has always worked and paid her taxes. But now that the order for her deportation has been issued, her only hope is that authorities at the Department of Homeland Security review her case and allow her to remain in the country for humanitarian reasons.
"But this isn't just about Jeanette. She is simply the symbol, the visible face of a situation that affects thousands and thousands of people nationwide. We want people to know who is being deported," Melaku said.
Nearly 85 percent of the more than 1.05 million people deported from the United States between 2007-2009 did not have criminal records, according to statistics of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Jeanette's only 'crime' was to come here and work hard in three low-paying jobs," Klawitter said.
For her part, Vizguerra, before attending her hearing, thanked everyone present for their "moral and spiritual support."
"There are no words to thank you enough for coming so early on a Monday morning to downtown Denver to pray for me and my family. It is immoral that we accept an immigration system that divides families, and it's horribly unjust that someone can be deported for a traffic violation," she said.