Police made several arrests as protesters blocked enforcement vans from leaving a U.S. immigration office in Phoenix late Wednesday, fearing that a mother of two was on board and possibly headed for deportation.
The protest surged at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility after Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody during a routine check-in with the agency, according to media reports.
The activists said it was an attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to deport immigrants living in the country illegally who had previously not been a priority for deportation under the Obama administration.
Fearing her deportation, dozens of immigration activists blocked the gates surrounding the office near central Phoenix in what the Arizona Republic says was an effort to stop several vans and a bus from leaving.
The protesters said Garcia de Rayos was in one of the vehicles, which are used to transport people in ICE custody to detention centres, or to Arizona’s border with Mexico for deportation. A Republic photo identified a woman looking through one of the vehicle windows covered by security screening as Garcia de Rayos.
Late Wednesday, police gathered at the building and confronted protesters, many who chanting “Justice!”
Police posted on Twitter that they arrested about seven protesters, but they added that the demonstration was mainly peaceful.
About 7 arrests made without force. Everyone remains safe so far. Hoping for continued cooperation and no more criminal conduct.
“Besides the few people engaged in criminal acts, most people out here are peaceful and exercising their rights properly,” police said. “Everyone remains safe so far. Hoping for continued co-operation and no more criminal conduct.”
Her arrest came just days after the Trump administration broadened regulations under which some people will be deported.
“We’re living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants,” Rayos’s lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, told the New York Times after leaving the building that houses the federal immigration agency.
The report said that the demonstrators included several people who blocked vehicles or the facility gate.
Puente Arizona, an immigrant advocacy group, said Garcia de Rayos came to the U.S. as a 14-year-old and now has two children. She was arrested on Wednesday while reporting to ICE, an annual requirement.
Her status with the agency wasn’t immediately clear late Wednesday. The Republic carried a statement from ICE officials, which said only that she was detained because of her prior conviction.
Phoenix station KTAR reported that she was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid and was later convicted of felony identity theft for possessing false papers.
Despite her conviction, she was allowed to live in Arizona and checked in with ICE officials every six months.