Activists in North Carolina are pressuring immigration authorities not to deport an undocumented mother of nine after her arrest last year for driving without a license.

Relatives and friends of 43-year-old Mexican immigrant Patricia Peña Martinez accompanied her on a support vigil at a church in the town of Dobson organized by the NC DREAM Team.

Peña has been ordered to leave the country before Saturday, but the DREAM Team urged members of the community to sign an online petition asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop her deportation.

"This woman is the only support for her children, who depend emotionally and economically on their mother. We're seeking a humanitarian pardon based on the medical condition of her smallest daughter," Viridiana Martinez, the founder of the NC DREAM Team, told Efe on Tuesday.

Peña was going to her job on Jan. 13, 2012, when she stopped at a gasoline station in Charlotte and a law enforcement officer who encountered her there asked to see her driver's license.

Having been unable to obtain a license due to her status as an undocumented foreigner, she was transferred to the Mecklenburg County jail and arrested on a criminal charge of illegally reentering the United States.

She spent six months in custody before she was released on bail.

During the time she was detained, Peña's two youngest children, Daniel and Allison, who need special care because they suffer from epilepsy, showed symptoms of depression and suicide.

Peña emigrated to the United States in 1987 and settled in North Carolina in the 1990s, where she has worked in restaurants and in the tobacco fields. EFE