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El Paso shooting memorial. Photo: Mark Ralston/Ap News
El Paso shooting memorial. Photo: Mark Ralston/Ap News

A survivor of El Paso’s 2019 Walmart shooting has been deported by ICE

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A survivor of the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting has been deported to Mexico by ICE following an arrest during a traffic stop, according to lawyers with the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DMRS). 

The woman, identified only as Rosa to protect her identity, was arrested Wednesday Jan. 20 at a traffic stop by El Paso Police for two outstanding traffic citations from 2015. She was then booked into the El Paso County Jail and turned over to the custody of ICE. 

Rosa was deported to Ciudad Juárez on the morning of Friday, Jan. 22. 

Rosa survived the mass shooting at Walmart in August 2019, where at least 22 people were killed. Police said that the shooter admitted to targeting “Mexicans” and described it as a hate crime. 

Rosa and her sister witnessed the shooter attack the first victim outside the store, and through cooperating with the FBI and local authorities, she ended up being a vital part of the investigation. 

She even received a certification from the El Paso District Attorney’s office saying that she was helpful in the investigation, according to Anna Hey, the attorney for DMRS representing Rosa.

This certification would permit Rosa to apply for a U Visa, which allows victims of crimes who are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in investigations and prosecutions, to remain in the U.S for four years. 

DRMS ALSO noted that Rosa has no criminal history other than the two traffic citations, which were issued more than five years ago.

Hey told KVIA that the decision is re-victimizing Rosa. 

“Rosa is a survivor of one of the most horrific events ever to take place in El Paso. She came forward and presented herself to both El Paso police and FBI officials to give a statement of what she saw on that fateful day,” she said.

Now, she faces an uncertain future in Ciudad Juarez. 

“Despite having told this to the ICE officials, [they] chose to remove her from the U.S, leaving her unsupported in Juárez. This decision amounts to a re-victimization of this young lady, who only came forward to help build the case against the shooter in the racist attack,” Hey continued. 

According to Rosa, she has spent her “whole life” in El Paso. 

“I got there when I was little – I don’t remember anything about Juárez,” she told local reporters, mentioning that she had graduated high school there as well.

Rosa also said that she doesn’t remember anything about Juárez and when she was told she was being deported, she felt like “her life was ending” at that moment. 

Upon hearing the news, Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar voiced her support for Rosa and vowed to take action. “Rosa — an El Pasoan and survivor and material witness of the deadliest terrorist attack against Latinos — was deported yesterday,” she wrote. 

She then said she plans to support the efforts of DMRS to bring Rosa home, and to “fight to protect victims and witnesses from deportation.” 

Rosa’s arrest and deportation comes after a Trump-appointed judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Biden administration from moving forward with a 100-day pause on deportations

Rosa, like countless other undocumented immigrants in this county, is a valuable member of society. If people like Rosa, who received documentation from law enforcement commending her assistance and allowing her to apply for a U Visa, can be deported over years-old traffic violations, the hope for other undocumented Americans looks very bleak. 

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