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Jeanette Vizguerra in February.  EFE/TODD PIERSON 
Jeanette Vizguerra in February.  EFE/TODD PIERSON 

Mexican immigrant hidden in US church one of Time’s 100 most influential people

Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant, has spent two months in a Denver religious center over deportation fears.

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Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2017 has a special pick for this year, and it has nothing to do with politicians, businessmen or celebrities.

Tle list includes this year Jeanette Vizguerra, a 45-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant who has spent nearly two months living in the basement of a church in Denver because of fears that she will be deported after two decades in the United States. Vizguerra has become a representative of resistance to the immigration policies of the new US president.

“I want to share this recognition with the 11 million immigrant families who are out there in the same situation as me, who are also fighting in the shadows, who are still too afraid to come out and show their face,” Vizguerra told journalists in front of the First Unitarian Church, where she sought sanctuary nearly two months ago taking advantage of the fact that immigration officials do not usually target religious centers in their operations.

US authorities discovered in 2009 that Vizguerra was using fake documentation. Her lawyer said she had obtained those papers in order to find work. Vizguerra admitted her guilt and was hit with a deportation order. However, on the five subsequent occasions that the mother of four underwent routine checks with immigration authorities, her lawyer managed to renew a stay on the deportation.

But when Vizguerra’s lawyer tried to obtain a new extension to the stay in December, there was no response. In February, the new Trump administration denied the request. A day earlier, Vizguerra had already sought refuge in the church she now calls home.

The woman lives in fear of being separated from her three younger children, ages 6, 10 and 12, who are not at risk of deportation because they were born in the United States. Her oldest daughter, who is 26, was not born in the States but she is a beneficiary of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, also called DREAMers. 

Trump has no clear policy towards DREAMers, but fears of deportations have increased as some DACA beneficiaries have been detained by ICE agents in the last weeks. 

 

 

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