DeGette Hails Temporary Stays for Vizguerra and Hernandez Garcia, Calls for Further Action

May 12, 2017
Press Release

Denver, CO – Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Chief Deputy Whip, today hailed the decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to grant stays of removal for immigrant rights’ activist Jeanette Vizguerra and long-time Denver resident Arturo Hernandez Garcia, both of whom had sought refuge in a church in her district, and she urged a more stable solution for people in their position.

“ICE finally chose justice and granted a stay for Jeanette, freeing her from the church basement where she has sought shelter these past few months, and Arturo’s circumstances have been resolved for the moment,” DeGette said.  “But such situations should never arise in the first place.  People who contribute to their communities and live peacefully for decades in this country – at a time when immigrants of all types are being demonized – deserve better.

“Congress needs to get serious about comprehensive immigration reform rather than continuing with the patchwork of measures that we now have.  And in the meantime, the Executive Branch needs to show more compassion.”

Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant and immigrant rights’ activist, had sheltered in the First Unitarian Church in DeGette’s district since mid-February to avoid deportation on the eve of her last regularly-scheduled appointment with ICE officials.  Because the stay on a previous deportation order had expired the week before, Vizguerra became concerned, alerting her family and her attorney that the check-in might not be routine. She was right; ICE agents were preparing to deport her upon arrival at their offices.

DeGette contacted Trump administration officials, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Senator Michael Bennet, along with Vizguerra’s congressman, Jared Polis, who had introduced a bill a few days before seeking legal status for Vizguerra.  She already had a pending legal petition to remain in the United States and had received stays of deportation during the Obama administration.  The stay that has just been granted will expire in March 2019 unless Congress acts on the Polis bill first.

Last month, TIME magazine named Vizguerra to its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.  DeGette praised this move, saying, “Jeanette has been a clarion voice for the rights of others, is widely respected in her community and, during her two decades here, has contributed to civil society in many ways. She should not have to face the threat of deportation. I hope this renewed and higher-profile interest in her situation will help lead to a just resolution.”

Vizguerra’s three youngest children – ages 6, 10, and 12 – were all born in the United States.  She entered the country from Mexico illegally in 1997 with her husband and eldest daughter, then age 6.  That daughter, now grown, lives in the United States and has a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Hernandez Garcia has a daughter who came with him from Mexico to the United States in 1999 and is now 17, as well as an 11-year-old, U.S.-born daughter. He sought sanctuary in the church basement in 2014 and 2015 and emerged after officials told him he was no longer an immigration priority, but was arrested by ICE agents three weeks ago.