Several arrested as deportation fear prompts Phoenix protest

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Supporters block an ICE van in downtown Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Supporters block an ICE van in downtown Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Police made several arrests as protesters blocked enforcement vans from leaving a U.S. immigration office in Phoenix, fearing that a mother of two was headed for deportation.

The protest surged late Wednesday 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.

[READ MORE: 7 people arrested during deportation protest at ICE facility in Phoenix]

The activists said it was an attempt by 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 the 36-year-old woman's return to Mexico, dozens of immigration activists blocked the gates surrounding the office near central Phoenix in what an Arizona newspaper said was an effort to stop several vans and a bus from leaving.

"Unfortunately we had to take action because they didn't take action of just releasing my wife and so we had to take to the extreme [action], you know block the van," Garcia de Rayos' husband said overnight. "Where she was being transferred to? Who knows -- Eloy, Florence or even Mexico. So, we had to take it to the extreme ... and stop the van from taking my wife away from my kids and myself." 

The protesters said Garcia de Rayos was in one of the vehicles, which were used to transport people in ICE custody to detention centers, or to Arizona's border with Mexico for deportation. A newspaper photo identified a woman looking through one of the vehicle windows covered by security screening as Garcia de Rayos.

Police, meanwhile, took positions around the building and confronted some of the demonstrators, many who chanted "Justice!"

Police posted on Twitter that they arrested about seven protesters, but added that the demonstration was mainly peaceful.

"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 cooperation and no more criminal conduct."

By 1 a.m. Thursday, less than two dozen protesters stood in the dark outside the building talking quietly, with just a handful of police looking on.

The protesters said they initially succeeded in stopping the vehicles from leaving, but said they later left the grounds by another exit. They didn't know if Garcia de Rayos had still been aboard.

Her arrest came just days after the Trump administration broadened regulations under which some people will be deported.

[READ: Trump wants to enlist local police in immigration crackdown]

[RELATED: Phoenix church offers sanctuary for families facing deportation]

[COMMENTARY: President Trump, don't deport me]

"We're living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants," Rayos' lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, told the New York Times after leaving the immigration building.

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. ICE officials issued a statement shortly after 6:30 p.m.

"Ms. Garcia De Rayos is currently being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013.  Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia De Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation."

Garcia De Rayos was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid and was later convicted of 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.

"She's been checking in with ICE for the last eight years," Garcia De Rayos' husband said. "It's never been an issue; she's never been a priority. She's never a threat to the United States. Every time for the past eight years they said, 'You're a good citizen; you're in good standing,' every year -- year after year. Now, under Trump's administration -- under his new orders -- this is what's going on.

"There are other families that are going to have to go through the same thing we're going and we're fighting not only for my wife but for the other families," he continued.

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AP writer Astrid Galvan and 3TV/CBS 5 News contributed to this report.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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