Inmate with breast cancer out of jail to receive treatment

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by Catherine Holland

Video reports by Heidi Goitia and Karen Brown

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 21 at 12:20 PM

In the country illegally, arrested for working under false ID

PHOENIX -- A Maricopa County inmate who is battling breast cancer was released from jail Thursday so that she can get treatment thanks to an unusual plea deal with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Ruth Alvarez has been in jail for more than two weeks, accused of working under a false identity. Alvarez is in the country illegally. She has been here for about 15 years.

Doctors diagnosed Alvarez late last summer. She finished chemotherapy just before her arrest and is scheduled to undergo a mastectomy within a week.

"Her family is ecstatic to have her back home so she can be with her children and more importantly to be on the road to recovery," attorney José Peñalosa, who is representing Alvarez, said just hours before his client's release.

The plea deal Alvarez received is rare.

"It's an exceptional case," Peñalosa said, explaining that it's the first of its kind he has seen in his 20 years of practice.

The lawyer called the Maricopa County attorney's decision a humanitarian gesture and said all of the agencies involved cooperated to come up with a resolution that would work for everyone.

"I think it's a fantastic thing for the community and for Ruth to be free to be with her family and to seek the care that she needs," Peñalosa said.

"These two weeks have been pretty stressful," Indira Alvarado, Alvarez's daughter, said. "I'm really glad this has caught so many people's attention because I feel like it's an issue that needs attention, that needs to be heard. This kind of thing happens almost every day.

"My mom's health conditions do make the situation unique," she continued. "But in every other aspect, these kinds of thing happen every day. Families are torn apart due to deportation. Parents have to find a way to support their families."

At this point, it is not clear if Alvarez will be deported.

"We still don't know what's going to happen," Alvarado said.

ICE says it will revisit Alvarez's case after she recovers from surgery.

Peñalosa said Alvarez, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony, will be on unsupervised probation for a year.

Alvarez was transferred from Estrella Jail to the Lower Buckeye Jail, which is staffed by ICE officers in addition to detention officers, and then processed for release.

Alvarez's family waited nearly four hours for her to walk out of the jail. That happened shortly after 9:30 a.m.

Now that she is reunited with her family, Alvarez is scheduled to meet with her doctors to prepare for her imminent surgery.

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