FAIRFAX, Va. - A Virginia woman who is an undocumented immigrant has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) despite not having a criminal record.
Liliana Cruz Mendez, originally from El Salvador, has been in the United States since 2006, but was flagged by ICE during a traffic stop in 2013. Since then, the 30-year-old mother of two has been doing regular check-ins with ICE.
On Thursday morning, Cruz Mendez arrived at ICE’s Washington Field Office in Fairfax, Virginia with her two children for a regularly scheduled check-in. However, she was not able to go home with her kids.
Immigration advocate organizations such as CASA and the PICO National Network, which held a press conference Thursday afternoon in front of ICE’s office in Fairfax, say Cruz Mendez was detained and transferred to Woodbridge where she is being processed for deportation even though she has no criminal background and only has a minor traffic violation.
“They are distraught,” said Richard Morales of PICO National Network. “She has two young children. The father right now is going to the school to let the children know he is going to pick them up early and let them know what has happened. So everybody is very distraught and we are concerned for her and we are hoping she is reunited with her family tonight.”
All of this comes on the heels of new numbers released by ICE that show a 40 percent increase in deportations during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office compared to the same time period in 2016. According to ICE, those people are "known or suspected" of being in the country illegally.
The report says 75 percent of those arrested had criminal offenses ranging from homicides to drug charges. But it also points to data that shows ICE arrests of people with no criminal records jumped nearly 150 percent – from 4,200 during that period in 2016 to 10,800 in 2017. The arrest of Cruz Mendez falls into this category.
“What they are doing is targeting people just like Liliana,” said Morales. “They are targeting long-term residents. They are targeting people that are not a danger to the community.”
Cruz Mendez’s husband is currently in the process of applying for asylum, so there is a chance that could help her case.
ICE has not responded to our request for comment as of Thursday evening.