The last legal appeals for a Fairfield mother of four facing deportation to Mexico failed Tuesday afternoon, so her supporters sought a different kind of appeal.
Maribel Trujillo Diaz, in the U.S. illegally since 2002, was moved from Ohio to Louisiana early Tuesday in preparation for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“ICE can still do the right thing and decide not to divide a mother from her four American children,” her lawyers, Kathleen Kersh and Emily Brown, said in a statement. “We urge concerned members of the community to continue to speak out about this grave injustice and ask ICE to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to send Maribel back to her family.”
Trujillo Diaz, who goes by Trujillo, likely will be deported with days, her lawyers said.
The lawyers also urged ICE that, if she is deported, Trujillo be given a chance to fly to Mexico with her 3-year-old daughter, who has medical conditions.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her deportation appeal, ruling its judges couldn’t review her case.
The appeals court said it did not have jurisdiction over her “final order of removal” by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which was issued May 20, 2014. The three judges said in a two-page decision that Trujillo failed to appeal it within 30 days.
Kersh and Brown’s statement following the ruling said that given newly discovered facts about gangs targeting other family members in Mexico, “it is wrong for ICE to deport her now while the merits of that case have not been ruled on.”
“Deporting her in the next few days, as ICE apparently plans to do, denies her the due process to which everyone living in the United States is entitled under the Constitution,” said Kersh and Brown, who work for a nonprofit organization called Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE). “It also denies her opportunity to seek protection to which she is entitled under U.S. immigration law.”
Church leaders and other supporters gathered afterward at the federal courthouse in Cincinnati to denounce the deportation as inhumane.
Trujillo’s oldest child, 14-year-old Oswaldo, told reporters hours earlier that when he parted ways with his mother at the Fairfield trailer park where they live, it wasn’t a real goodbye, with hugs and kisses, because neither suspected she would soon be taken into custody and placed in Butler County’s jail.
After unexpectedly being arrested April 5 near their home, Trujillo later was transferred to the Morrow County Correctional Facility two counties north of Columbus. From there, ICE agents moved her Tuesday to Oakdale, La., and said they had committed to not forcing her out of the country until the appeals court ruled, which happened within hours.
Oswaldo and his mother said goodbye “not in a formal way, it was just like a goodbye because she was going to work,” he said. They were in different rooms at the time: “It was like, ‘bye.’ It wasn’t a a hug or a kiss, like we usually do.”
Trujillo, who had a work permit that was set to expire in July, hadn’t expected to be arrested because two days before her incarceration she met with ICE agents and was told to report back in May, delighting her family and supporters. In the tense week since she disappeared, her children have squabbled less, and the family has eaten together more, Oswaldo said.
He said it has been “really shocking” to him how many people have been praying for his family and paying attention to his mother’s case.
“I didn’t know my mom’s case was this big,” he said. “I thought it was just another in the pile, you know?” He added: “If more people knew how she was, I think there would be even more people who would be behind this case.”
Trujillo’s lawyers are among those who believe hers is a watershed case that can affect thousands or more people across the country who have committed no crimes, other than being in the country illegally.
Supporters had urged people to contact Ohio’s two U.S. senators and Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich’s press secretary, Emmalee Kalmbach, said Kasich believes Trujillo should be allowed to stay because she has lived in the country since 2002 and committed no crimes.
ICE learned about her after a Koch Foods employment raid about 10 years ago, but she was not prosecuted for working there, Brown said. Instead, deportation proceedings were started, and she requested asylum. This month she again sought asylum, arguing drug cartels have grown more powerful and abused her family in Mexico in recent years even more than she realized.
Kalmbach said Kasich has said about Trujillo: “I don’t want these people being deported. We have enough broken families in the country.”
Others, including state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, and Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, have noted that being here without permission itself violates the law, and families are separated all the time when people commit crimes and go to prison or jail.
The family’s pastor at the St. Julie Billiart Church in Hamilton, Father Mike Pucke, said the Trujillos have been through a “roller coaster” of emotions.
“I’ve been a priest for 44 years, have dealt with all kinds of instances, obviously, of happiness and joy. But also of grief, and I can tell you there’s something in this grief that is exacerbated when it goes up and down and up and down,” Pucke said.
Her case has been taken up by individual Catholic churches, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and by other faiths.
Some recently gathered in vigil at on her behalf at a Columbus Mennonite church, while others from that city drove more two counties to the Morrow County jail Monday and stayed until 2 a.m. Tuesday, when she was expected to be deported.
At least two Twitter hashtags have been created in support of her: #MercyForMaribel and #FreeMaribel.
When Oswaldo spoke with his mother once about why she came to America, pregnant with him, she said, “to live a better life — something you can’t really do in Mexico,” her son said during his interview. “She said the risk was worth taking, because not only she gets a better life, and her husband, my dad, but her kids will get a better life, and our kids will get a better life.”