Two undocumented immigrants who hunkered down in the same Denver church to elude deportation have won victories in their fights to stay in the United States.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted temporary stays of removal to Jeanette Vizguerra and Arturo Hernandez, said Vizguerra’s attorney, Hans Meyer. Both had been living in the country without proper documentation for more than a decade before ICE arrested them separately this year.
Vizguerra, who has three American-born children younger than 12, is expected walk free Friday at 8:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) after securing a stay of nearly two years, Meyer said Thursday. She can remain in the United States until March 15, 2019.
Hernandez also has been granted a stay of removal, Meyer said. He “was recently released from ICE detention so he can attend his daughter’s graduation,” CNN affiliate KDVR reported.
Vizguerra’s case — and to a lesser degree Hernandez’s — have gained international attention as apparent examples of President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Time magazine this year named Vizguerra one of its 100 Most Influential People in the world.
“Jeanette is a living example of the true American values of courage, integrity, and perseverance,” her lawyer said. “I am proud to stand alongside her as we work to secure fairness and humanity in both her visa immigration case as well as our nation’s immigration laws.”
ICE did not immediately respond Friday to CNN’s request for comment. The agency has cast recent detentions in both cases as routine.
Decades without documents
Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jared Polis — Colorado Democrats who advocated for both undocumented immigrants and introduced bills on Vizguerra’s behalf — hailed ICE’s latest action both cases.
Vizguerra came to the United States without proper documents from Mexico in 1997. She arrived with her husband and eldest daughter, who now participates in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets undocumented people brought to the country as kids attend school and work.
She landed on ICE’s radar in 2009, when she was pulled over and charged with, among other minor violations, “attempted possession of a forged instrument.” That involved a job application on which she used a made-up — not stolen — Social Security Number, Meyer has said.
Still, she was allowed to stay in the country, provided she checked in occasionally with ICE. After Trump took office, Vizguerra decided to skip her scheduled check-in, and instead took sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church in Denver. She eventually moved to the First Baptist Church of Denver, logging 86 days in hiding before her stay of removal was granted.
Hernandez, who is Mexican, overstayed his visitor’s visa in 2003. He came to ICE’s attention and was told to leave the country in 2010, when he was arrested on “local criminal charges,” the agency has said, though his supporters say he has no convictions.
The father of two took refuge at the First Unitarian church in 2014, until he got a letter telling him he was no longer an “enforcement priority,” he has said. He was detained again by ICE in April.