The city of Stamford, Connecticut, is rallying behind a mother of two who on Monday defied an order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to leave the country.
Miriam Martinez came to the United States in the 1990s during a time of political unrest in Guatemala. For more than a decade, she has lived in Stamford with her husband and two daughters, who are American citizens.
ICE had ordered Martinez to board a flight to Guatemala on Monday, but she chose to return home to her family instead.
Stamford Mayor David Martin says he stands by Martinez. He says it's unfair to separate her from her daughters, one of whom has juvenile diabetes that needs constant monitoring.
“This is just so wrong. I don’t claim to be an expert on immigration law, which is probably not right, and what it should be...but this idea that we’re somehow making America safer by deporting a mother that’s taking care of a child, a family that’s earning their living and just trying to make a better life, isn’t that what America is about?”
Martin was speaking before a crowd outside Martinez’s house, where she watched from inside. The crowd included U.S. Representative Jim Himes, State Representative William Tong, clergy, and the families of two Connecticut residents who avoided deportation by taking sanctuary in a New Haven church. ICE eventually granted them a stay.
Martinez’s husband, Raphael Benavides, says he’s grateful for the outpouring of local support. “It just makes you feel stronger than ever, especially when you are facing a situation that you never thought...something that doesn’t make any sense.”
In a statement on Monday, ICE said that a federal immigration judge had granted Martinez voluntary departure in 2002. ICE said that "in a measure of discretion" at the time, they placed her in an Alternatives to Detention program, in which she had been checking in periodically at an ICE office. In compliance with the court's order, Martinez had been asked to provide proof that she intended to leave the U.S., which she had been doing. Now, however, "should she fail to depart as instructed, she will be listed as an immigration fugitive and arrested when encountered, and then ICE will carry out her removal order."
An earlier version of this story stated that Martinez's child has Type 2 diabetes. She has juvenile, or Type 1, diabetes.