Just last week, we witnessed again the cruelty of the Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement measures, as a Falls Church family was torn apart.
Liliana Cruz Mendez was working in a local restaurant and raising two U.S.-born children with her husband, Rene Bermudez. Born in El Salvador, Liliana came to the United States as a teenager. First stopped at the border in 2006, authorities issued her a deportation order before releasing her. She lived quietly in Northern Virginia with her family until a traffic violation in 2013 required her to begin regular check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
At her last check-in, which followed new Trump Administration immigration orders, she was detained by ICE, which initiated the final steps to deport her. Presidents Bush and Obama made it the policy of their Administrations to prioritize the deportation of violent criminals, but Trump’s policy will apparently make no distinction between a violent gang member and a mother who gets a ticket for driving a car with a broken tail light.
I took her case up with ICE, writing and calling multiple officials there. My colleagues from Virginia, Representative Gerry Connolly and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, did so also. I went to ICE headquarters in person to join her legal team and proponents of immigration reform in calling for common sense and mercy to prevail in ICE’s adjudication of her case.
Soon after that visit, Governor Terry McAuliffe pardoned Liliana for her traffic violation. Helping Liliana – the action I hoped and expected the Governor to take – provided a sharp contrast with such an arbitrary decision to split up a family.
Last week, however, ICE announced its decision to deport Liliana Cruz Mendez. An ICE spokesperson told local press that “ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
Obama-era programs like DAPA and DACA, which gave consideration to the well being of families and the aspirations of immigrants who contribute to our society, are giving way to heartless insistence on deporting any and every immigrant without papers, regardless of the trajectory of that person’s life or the cruelty of the decision.
Liliana has lived in the United States for 11 years, under Republican and Democratic administrations. She lived here to watch an immigration reform proposal that would have given her a path to citizenship pass the U.S. Senate. The bill could have passed the House and become law, but Republican leadership never gave it a vote.
ICE will now deport Liliana to her native El Salvador, a violent country which she has not seen since she was a teenager. In so doing, it will deprive two young children, who are both U.S. citizens, of their mother.
The decision to deport Liliana Cruz Mendez lays bare the injustice of heartless Trump’s immigration stance, and its lie about making communities safer. Breaking up this Northern Virginia family will not make anyone safer. This is not a policy of law and order; it is a policy of xenophobia.
I will continue to fight for more just policies through my work in Congress, including comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken system and restore justice for families who help make our communities great.
Until we pass such reforms, the awful tragedy which has broken Liliana Cruz Mendez’ family will continue to be visited upon families across the country, with equally inhumane results.