EL PASO, Texas – Immigrant families and their supporters rallied in El Paso on Tuesday to call attention to what they describe as a “deadly combination”: U.S. deportation practices and Mexican cartel-related violence.
Yanet Marquez, 24, spoke at the rally. Last month, the El Paso woman says, her husband was accidentally killed in a gang-related shooting soon after a state trooper routinely stopped him and then dropped him off at the border for being undocumented. Marquez has been in the United States for 13 years and, with two young children who are U.S. citizens, she considers her family to be American.
“I want to give my children a better life. I wanted to go to college, have a career. Now I have no – no memories. No nothing.”
Marquez says she never got to say goodbye to her husband, and that he was murdered in the process of trying to return to her. She blames a “corrupt Mexican government” for his death, and is scared that U.S. authorities might deport her at any time. She’s filing for asylum on the grounds that Mexican officials would be even less likely to ensure her safety now that she’s speaking out.
Marquez’ El Paso attorney, Carlos Spector, says he’s seen a rise in family separations despite the Obama administration’s announcement earlier this year that it would reprioritize deportations. The new Justice Department policy focuses on removing dangerous criminals rather than peaceful families and students. Spector says some local-level law-enforcement officials have been slow to get the memo.
“It takes incidents like this for the community to come out and put pressure on their local law enforcement to start implementing the policy in the executive order of the president, in the way it was meant to be.”
Critics have called the new deportation policy “administrative amnesty,” but Spector says an underfunded court system has been so overwhelmed with the backlog of immigration cases that new priorities were inevitable. Some officers who oppose the policy, he says, have been taking matters into their own hands by shortcutting the administrative process and simply taking undocumented residents directly to the border.