Feathered Bastard

Barack Obama's Promise, and Ciria Lopez-Pacheco's Removal to Mexico

The nativists can howl at the moon in victory. As of today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement took custody of Ciria Lopez-Pacheco, the mother torn from her children January 9 by a ski-masked MCSO deputy as part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's latest anti-immigrant sweep. ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard confirmed this for me moments ago. 

Though Picard could not say, Lopez-Pacheco probably either is, or soon will be, on her way to Nogales. She would not be taken to a detention facility like Eloy or Florence, most likely because she's been ordered from the country at least once before. (Picard could not offer specifics other than to say she was being removed from the country.)

In the case of a prior removal, as it's called, ICE might not press her to sign a voluntary return order, as they do with most other undocumented Hispanics in Joe's jails. Indeed, when I spoke to Lopez-Pacheco during a visit with her in Maricopa County's Estrella Jail on Saturday, she told me that she had not been urged by Arpaio's 287(g) deputies -- deputies cross trained to enforce immigration law -- to sign a voluntary removal to Mexico. I found this curious, but I knew it was not a good sign. .  

Initially, Lopez-Pacheco was arrested in Arpaio's sweep because of an unpaid traffic ticket for driving on a suspended license. Not long after her arrest, she was taken before a municipal judge, the ticket was paid, and her warrant was quashed. A legal resident or a citizen would have been released at this point. But Lopez-Pacheco still had an ICE hold on her, because she was undocumented.

Actually, she never had a driver's license, because she cannot obtain one as an illegal immigrant. She did keep her insurance and registration up to date, however. If she'd been given the opportunity to legally apply for a license, I'm sure she would have.

She told me she came to this country for a better life for her, and for her children. Thankfully, her boy, age 5, and her girl, age 7 are American citizens by birth, so no men in ski-masks can come and take them away. But as you can tell from the video taken of them by Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza shortly after their mom's arrest, those children will probably never forget the nightmare of having their mom snatched from them by a man in a black mask.

Today President Barack Obama addressed the nation after having been sworn in as our chief executive, and two passages from his speech struck me. The first, being that, "...for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

Sheriff Joe and ICE may not be "salughtering innocents," but they are "inducing terror" through Joe's sweeps. President Obama did not mean these words for them, but the sentiment, nonetheless, fits.

Second was the line that, "the world has changed, and we must change with it." I say, Amen, to that, brother. Now just when will that change hit us here in Sand Land? 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons